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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

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.

Exclusive: Hundreds of kids held in Border Patrol stations

Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to get to El Paso, Texas. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images

More than 700 children who crossed from Mexico into the United States without their parents were in Border Patrol custody as of Sunday, according to an internal Customs and Border Protection document obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The current backup is yet another sign of a brewing crisis for President Biden — and a worsening dilemma for these vulnerable children. Biden is finding it's easier to talk about preventing warehousing kids at the southern border than solving the problem.

Pompeo plots 2024 power play

Mike Pompeo in Washington on Feb. 12. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Mike Pompeo has quickly reentered the political fray, raising money for Republicans, addressing key political gatherings and joining an advocacy group run by Donald Trump's former lawyer.

Why it matters: The former secretary of state is widely considered a potential 2024 presidential contender. His professional moves this week indicate he's working to keep his name in the headlines and bolster a political brand built largely on foreign policies easily contrasted with the Biden White House.