(Bloomberg) – Finally, it turned out that the demanding economy in coal was too much for a giant of power generators to handle.
Kl. 12:09 pm local time on Monday – after depleting power for nearly five decades – the largest coal-fired power plant in the western United States was permanently shut down, becoming the latest testament to fossil fuel decline. Once a flashpoint in President Donald Trump's campaign to save the US coal industry, the Navajo Complex in the Arizona Desert will now spend the next three years dismantling and decommissioning.
The end was long on the way for the 2.25 gigawatt Navajo plant. The owners, led by the Salt River Project, had originally planned to close it in 2017, but entered into an agreement with Navajo Nation leaders to keep it going for another two years. The plant, which once produced enough power to light up 1.7 million homes, sits in Navajo lands in the Four Corners area of Arizona and was a major source of jobs in the region.
Tribal leaders spent many years appealing to the Trump administration to help save the facility, characterizing it as the president's chance to fulfill his campaign promise to revive America's Coal Country. The fact that the home department owns a 24% stake in the complex gave him all the more reason to make an example out of it. The then Interior Minister, Ryan Zinke, promised to explore all options to save the place.
The Navajo complex did not show any fight against the market forces for all its political ties. Slate boom released record volumes of low natural gas and undermined the economy of coal generators across the United States. Cheaper and cleaner wind and solar farms also began to squeeze the surplus into the plant.
Coal, which once supplied more electricity in the United States than any other resource, now accounts for less than a quarter of the nation's mix. Since 2010, power generators have announced the retirement of more than 500 coal-fired power plants with more than 100 gigawatts of capacity, according to government data. A typical nuclear reactor has about 1 gigawatt capacity.
Chief River Project Chief Officer Mike Hummel described the final decision to shut down Navajo as difficult but necessary.
That would prove to be one of many unsuccessful attempts by Trump to help save coal plants.
Last year, his administration's efforts to subsidize some coal generators supplied by miner and longtime Trump supporter Robert E. Murray fell. Murray's company ended in bankruptcy in October.
In February, the federal-operated Tennessee Valley Authority decided to retire an aging coal power plant in Kentucky, despite Trump asking for the tool on Twitter to keep it open.  Read more: Battle for Save a Dying Arizona Coal Plant Goes to Washington
The owners of the Navajo plant – which also includes Arizona Public Service Co., NV Energy Inc. and Tucson Electric Power Co. – has agreed to make rental payments totaling $ 110 million to Navajo Nation so that the site can be taken out, monitored and operated as part of the region's transmission system.
Peabody Energy Corp., the largest US coal producer, has already closed the Kayenta mine – on the Navajo and Hopi tribal lands – that supplied the plant.
Salt River said in a statement that it has offered jobs to all 433 of the Navajo plant's employees. Nearly 300 have accepted.
The Navajo plant "will always be remembered as a coal-fired workhorse," Hummel said in the statement. The complex "and its employees are one of the reasons this region, the state of Arizona and the Phoenix metropolitan area have been able to grow and prosper," he said.
(Michael R. Bloomberg, founder and majority stakeholder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has committed $ 500 million to launch Beyond Carbon, a campaign to shut down remaining coal-fired power plants in the United States by 2030 and slow the construction of new gas plants.)
(Adds plant -cutting details in the sixth paragraph.)
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