Wall Street Turning Away from Coal

If there is no investment today, there won’t be any coal-fired power plants tomorrow.  That is the topic of this story in today’s Washington Post.

The report documents the continuing decline of coal as a fuel for electrical generation.  Wall Street bankers have stopped investing in new coal fired power plants.

“Coal is a dead man walkin’,” says Kevin Parker, global head of asset management and a member of the executive committee at Deutsche Bank. “Banks won’t finance them. Insurance companies won’t insure them. The EPA is coming after them. . . . And the economics to make it clean don’t work.”

Coal’s formerly dominant position is steadily being eroded by natural gas.

In 2002, there were plans to install 36,000 megawatts of new coal-fired power by 2007. Only one-eighth of that was completed.

Deutsche Bank predicts coal’s share of electric power generation will tumble further, from 47 percent in 2009 to 34 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2030.

It put it this way in its report: “Based on today’s energy fundamentals, the rational economic decision is to shutter inefficient coal plants and replace them with natural gas combined-cycle power plants.”

This decline of coal is not necessarily good news for opponents of PATH.  AEP/Allegheny can’t build new coal plants, so they have to make their existing plants as profitable as possible.  That means getting access to the east coast by using Project Mountaineer and the PJM “reliability” smokescreen.

The decline of coal has hit US coal miners hardest.  As coal demand falls, coal companies also try to keep their profits up by cutting costs.  In a coal mine, that means miners die.  2010 was the deadliest year in US coal mines in almost two decades.  Of the 48 US miners who died, 35 were West Virginians.  Twenty nine of those miners died in Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine, but most of the other nine miners, as Ken Ward always reminds us, died alone and in the dark.