Just over two months after state regulators shot down Dominion Energy’s proposed integrated resource plan–partly because it included no coal retirements prior to 2028–the utility has announced that it will be retiring its entire South Carolina coal fleet by 2030 and adding as much as 2 GW of solar and up to 900 MW of battery storage by 2048.
Dominion, which serves more than 750,000 customers in the state, announced the proposed retirements in its updated long-term energy plan, though that plan does also include 1 GW of new natural gas power.
“While we’re very glad there’s an end in sight for Dominion Energy’s coal in South Carolina, adding fracked gas is a short-sighted move that means communities in Orangeburg County won’t get the safe, clean energy they deserve,” said Will Harlan, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in South Carolina.
As for the coal plants, Dominion’s modified energy plan said the utility is seeking to retire three coal-fired units at Wateree and Williams Stations in 2028, as well as convert the Cope Station from coal to natural gas by 2030.
Not to be overlooked, the 2 GW of solar capacity and 900 MW of planned storage additions will be a major boon to South Carolina’s renewable portfolio, even though they may be a ways off.
The state currently has a total installed solar capacity of just over 1.7 GW, which is good for 12th in the nation, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). However, South Carolina is only projected by SEIA to add 1.4 GW over the next 5 years, making it 23rd in the nation over that span.
The state has begun to embrace solar more in recent years, but consistent growth has been hard to come by.
The resource plan the the utility will be moving forward with, Plan 8, forecasts 50 MW of solar additions in 2026 and 2027, followed by none in 2028 and 2029, before moving to 100 MW annually until 2048.
A focus on public health
Both the Wateree and Williams Stations were in immediate need of retrofits in order to meet federal rules meant to protect waterways from mercury, arsenic and other pollutants. When regulators shot down Dominion’s initial integrated resource plan, they informed the utility that it would have to undertake an extensive retirement analysis before it could direct any ratepayer funds toward retrofitting the plants.
In a release commending Dominion’s plan to ditch coal, Sierra Club noted that all three plants are located in majority Black communities and have for years been releasing toxic pollution into local waterways, which the group claims can and has taken a significant toll on the public health of the communities.
“The closure of these plants will be a huge health benefit for families and children who have been forced to live, work, and play in the shadow of coal-burning plants that pollute their air and the rivers where they boat and fish,” said Harlan. “These communities have fought long and hard for protections that others take for granted, and now there’s hope for real change.”
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