Coal power plant outages remain historically high, NERC report finds

By Catherine Morehouse | 06/21/2024 06:27 AM EDT

Wind power also saw an uptick in forced outages last year, according to a new report.

Coal-fired power plants suffered a higher rate of outages last year than other types of generation, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corp., while renewable energy sources also faced rising problems in delivering electricity to the grid.

According to a new NERC report, coal power plants have experienced more unplanned outages than other power sources relative to their share of the electricity mix for the past three years, though those plants fared better in 2023 than they had in 2021 and 2022. NERC attributed coal plants’ performance issues to deferred maintenance on aging units that are scheduled to be retired in the next several years, as well as an increase in “cycling” coal units, when they are ramped up and down quickly to better align with variable resources like wind and solar power.

“This is a continuation of increasing [outage] rates for coal that we’ve been seeing over the last several years,” said Jack Norris, a performance analysis engineer at NERC, during a call detailing the report. “And it aligns with industry statements … that reduced maintenance on older coal units as they’re being phased out and increased cycling to accommodate variable energy resources are having a negative impact on these types of units’ reliability.”


Overall, power plant outages continued to trend above historic averages last year, according to the report.