Aside from the 28 or so coal-fired power plants already under construction, prospects remain tenuous for the half-dozen plants "near construction" and another 80 plants not nearly as far along, says Steve Piper, managing director of power forecasting at Platts, the energy information division of McGraw-Hill. "Expansions [of existing plants] still have a good chance. But others will come under increased pressure for deferral or outright cancellation."
Coal is still booming, some say
Some coal-industry officials say the cancellations belie a surge for coal.
"We're in the middle of a coal building boom with more new coal plants now under construction than anytime since the 1980s," says Joe Lucas, executive director of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, a lobby group supported by coal companies and electric utilities.
Others call the growing resistance to coal power worrying.
"It is a crisis for us because what we are not really focusing on is: Where is the electricity we need for the next 50 years going to come from?" said Gregory Boyce, chairman of Peabody Energy, at a "clean tech" conference recently in Palm Springs, Calif. "We view it as short-term and very unfortunate because we need to continue to build these new coal plants – that are at least 15 to 20 percent more carbon-efficient than the plants they replace – while we continue to work on technologies for the next generation of plants that are carbon-capture ready or that capture carbon and store it."