What Happens When an Owner Wants to Close Its Power Plant?


Power plants retire for many reasons. In some instances, they yield market share to more efficient players, like when natural gas plants can provide power at a lower cost than a coal-powered plant. In other cases, power plants cannot upgrade to comply with environmental, safety or other regulations and still provide service at a competitive rate. Rising maintenance costs and the age of a plant also factor in.

PJM maintains a current, public database of all plants that have filed official deactivation notices with PJM.

Plant owners considering retirement first notify PJM at least 90 days in advance, so that we can plan to ensure the grid operates reliably  without any issues. The sooner the generating plant owner informs PJM of its intent to retire a plant, the sooner PJM can study the transmission system and mandate any necessary upgrades.

When a specific generating unit requests to shut down, PJM posts the information within one business day and begins a Reliability Analysis. This process looks up to 15 years ahead, using standard criteria to identify any resulting potential transmission system problems.

Should any potential violations of reliability standards be identified, PJM may then order transmission upgrades or additions to be built to ensure the safety and reliability of the bulk electric system. Although PJM has no authority to order plants to continue operating, under certain cases, in order to maintain reliability, we may facilitate payment to the plant owner to continue operating while the transmission upgrades are completed. This is called a “reliability must run” contract. The process to close a power plant, from start to finish, varies between several months and multiple years.

The generation deactivation process is often fluid, and is subject to many factors. Sometimes, generation owners decide to keep a plant open and go on to rescind their Deactivation Request. In order for the public and all stakeholders to stay informed every step of the way, PJM continually provides current information about the process when we are informed of changes.

Tracking Generation Deactivation Requests

You can keep track of current requests on the Generation Deactivations section of the PJM website. There, projects are listed by tabs in three categories:

  1. Future Deactivations
  2. Deactivated Generators
  3. Withdrawn Deactivations

Here, PJM publicly lists Future Deactivations within one business day of being notified. PJM organizes information about each plant according to its generating capacity measured in megawatts (MW), fuel source, age, state, operating utility and more. To learn more, click on the drop-down arrow next to each column heading to rank or sort a project by characteristics and to dive deeper into the PJM analysis. Click on the drop-down arrow next to Reliability Analysis to see where the project stands in our planning process. Find our published research and updates by looking in the far-right column (Related Upgrades & Materials). You can also download and keep data by clicking on the upper-right corner of the data set.

Via public access of this kind, PJM provides transparency as it plans and operates aspects of the grid for maximum efficiency and reliability. Learn more about the steps PJM takes to keep the grid stable when power plants retire on the PJM Learning Center.