NEW YORK, NY — “In its heyday, the giant W.H. Sammis power station was a workhorse, cranking out electricity around the clock. But FirstEnergy Corp. FE -0.82% now plans to idle the coal-fired power plant on the Ohio River and run it only when there is exceptional need for electricity.
Sammis is one of a growing number of coal-fired plants that were built to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but now may run only occasionally because of soft demand for electricity and competition from gas-fired plants that are cheaper to run and cleaner to operate.
Coal has been losing ground to natural gas ever since a boost in shale-gas production sent the price of natural gas tumbling four years ago. But now the natural-gas price advantage is beginning to affect the coal units that seemed most protected from the shift. Many of these plants have the latest environmental upgrades and are often close to coal deposits.
The reason: With natural gas priced below $3 per million British thermal units, down from about $8 in 2008, many gas-fueled plants can make electricity for about two cents a kilowatt hour, less than half what it costs to run many coal units, said Julien Demoulin-Smith, director of utilities research at UBS Securities LLC in New York.”
— Rebecca Smith, Wall Street Journal
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