Utilities Plan to Exit Largest Coal Plant in Western U.S. by End of 2019

The largest coal plant in the West is buckling to market forces as the private utility owners plan to exit at the end of 2019. Despite the massive scale of the Navajo Generating Station, the high cost of mining and transporting coal to the high desert can no longer compete with alternatives on the open market. Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Electric Power Co. and NV Energy voted to exit the plant by the end of its current lease term in 2019.  Together the utilities own 75% of the coal plant.

NGS is already operating at less than two-thirds of capacity, and the customers it serves — including those receiving water from the Central Arizona Project — now have enough lower cost energy available to fully replace the generation from NGS.

The looming transition at NGS requires thoughtful and urgent planning to both sustain the local economy and remediate the lands that have been damaged by 40 years of pollution. NGS is located on Navajo land and employs members of the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe as well as providing revenue to the two nations. Even though the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe have borne the brunt of the pollution from NGS, the plant’s operation and associated coal mine have been part of the local economy for decades.

Fortunately, according to a recent report from the National Renewable Energy Lab, the Navajo lands are among the most ideal locations for solar development in the entire country.

Bill Corcoran, Western Campaign Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, issued the following statement:

“Coal plants like Navajo Generating Station are increasingly a burden for customers across the West as cheaper sources of power push coal out of the market.  While we can’t expect Arizonans to prop up plants that no longer make economic sense, we must recognize that the communities and workers that provided distant cities with power for decades deserve a thoughtful transition.  The state of Arizona benefited immensely from the plant while thousands of Navajo households still lack access to electricity.  The three affected tribes, the utilities, the Central Arizona Project, and the Bureau of Reclamation should develop a transition package that invests in the tribes, including clean energy development.

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