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A coal-fired power plant outside Kingston, Tennessee. Photo: Paul Harris/Getty Images

Thanks to the declining costs of wind and solar energy, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico and other states have made plans to retire old coal plants early — paving the way for deeper penetration of clean energy.

The big picture: At least 36 gigawatts (GW) of the country's 260 GW of existing coal generation are forecast to close by 2024, continuing the trend from last year's record 15 GW of coal retirements. These transitions are often moving ahead without political pressure and in states that lack renewable energy mandates.

Context: Coal plant retirements are likely to accelerate in the years ahead, even in the absence of federal climate policy efforts associated with a Renewable Portfolio Standard or the Green New Deal, according to a recent study from Energy Innovation.

  • In 2018, 74% of the existing U.S. coal fleet was at risk, meaning plants could be replaced with new local wind or solar for less than their coal operational costs. By 2025, at-risk coal increases to 86% of the country's fleet.
  • In 2018, 93 GW of existing U.S. coal capacity was substantially at risk from new wind and solar, meaning that building local renewables costs at least 25% less than existing coal operations. By 2025, substantially at-risk coal increases to 140 GW of the current 260 GW in operation.

What's happening:

Yes, but: Southeastern states and those in the Northeastern PJM grid are shielded from market forces by capacity payments and regulated markets that limit competitive pressures.

The bottom line: The economic case for reducing new and existing coal investments continues to improve, which explains in part why federal and state efforts to subsidize coal haven't done much to slow the number of plant retirements.

Justin Guay directs global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project and advises the ClimateWorks Foundation.

Go deeper

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

A health care worker oversees cars as people arrive to get tested for coronavirus at a testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
4 hours ago - Health

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Hospital staff work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura via Getty

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.