Washington, DC – Today, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign announced that one-third of all coal-fired power plants in the country are now scheduled for retirement, a significant milestone in the effort to move the country beyond coal no later than 2030. The latest announcements, coming this week from Maryland and Pennsylvania, bring the total up to 158 of the nation’s 523 coal-fired power plants.
Community groups from across the country, major environmental organizations, health advocates, and everyday citizens have joined together in an effort to fundamentally transform America’s energy sector by cleaning up the air we breathe and ending dangerous pollution from old, dirty coal plants while bringing more clean energy online. As we transition to a clean energy economy, the Sierra Club is calling on utilities, state government officials, and all people who care about justice and fairness to ensure a responsible transition for affected workers.
“As the country invests in more clean energy, polluting coal plants are now obsolete,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies which has contributed $50 million to Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. “Every American will benefit from the retirement of these 158 coal plants with cleaner air, lower healthcare costs, and less climate-disrupting pollution. Make no mistake -- coal is going away for good."
Retiring these 158 coal plants will help prevent 4,400 premature deaths, 6,800 heart attacks, and 72,000 asthma attacks every year. Retiring the plants will also avoid $2 billion in health costs.
“When the Beyond Coal campaign began in 2010, few people could have imagined that within four years, this country would revolutionize the way that it produces and uses energy,” said Bruce Nilles, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “The end of coal is coming, and millions of Americans are already benefitting from cleaner, affordable, more modern sources of energy like wind and solar.”
“America is at a transformative moment in its history,” Nilles continued. “We’re fundamentally changing the way we power the country. But it’s a feat that would have been impossible without the continued dedication of our allied and partner organizations, community members, local groups and citizens who are fighting for a cleaner environment.”
The Beyond Coal campaign, which began in January 2010, is committed to replacing dirty coal with clean energy by mobilizing grassroots activists in local communities. Sierra Club and its allies work in towns around the country to advocate for the retirement of old and outdated coal plants, to prevent new coal plants from being built and to replace them with clean, safe modern energy solutions. While the cost of coal has risen, clean energy prices have become competitive and affordable, saving money for consumers. Just last month, American Electric Power decided to increase its investment in wind after seeing how wind would provide substantial savings to their customers. Clean energy’s plummeting prices, in addition to the hundreds of communities working at the grassroots level to move the nation towards modern, healthy solutions, has caused coal to lose its foothold as America’s primary source of power.
“This is a movement that has caught on community by community and person by person, as parents, doctors and concerned citizens come together to demand the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and get away from dangerous coal-fired energy,” said Verena Owen, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Lead Volunteer. “Through grassroots activism and the power of passionate Americans across the country, we are moving away from dirty, outdated coal and re-powering our country with energy that will not poison our children.”
As utilities and energy companies realize that coal is an increasingly bad investment, they are transitioning their resources to cleaner, renewable sources of energy like wind and solar. The price of solar panels has dropped 80 percent in three years, and the cost of wind has dropped 90 percent over the last decade. As a result, companies like Xcel Energy in Colorado, which will triple the amount of solar and wind that it’s bringing online, are increasingly investing in homegrown renewable energy solutions.
Today, the United States has more than 60,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity, enough to power the equivalent of 15 million American homes. In fact, the state of Texas produces so much wind energy, that if Texas were a country, it would be the world's sixth ranking wind energy producer. Meanwhile, states across the country are already being powered by renewable energy. In 2012, Iowa and South Dakota received more than 20 percent of their energy from wind, and nine states produced more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind energy.
What’s more, this year the U.S. joined three other countries with more than 10,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity. Solar is the fastest growing energy option in the US, and in states like New Jersey, North Carolina, California and Illinois, solar power is both creating local jobs and providing clean, affordable electricity. This growth in clean energy has helped to create more jobs across the country as clean energy industries now employ nearly 200,000 Americans.