June 1 (Reuters) - South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) i nformed state utility regulators this week of plans to retire up to six coal-fired power units at three plants by the end of 2018, due in part to stricter federal environmental regulations.
SCE&G, a unit of South Carolina power company Scana Corp , said in a release the units to be retired are capable of producing almost 750 megawatts (MW) and entered service in the 1950s and 1960s. One megawatt can power about 1,000 homes.
U.S. energy companies have announced the shutdown of more than 30,000 MW of coal-fired generation over the next several years due to more stringent environmental rules, weak power market conditions and switching from coal to natural gas-fired units with gas cheaper than some types of coal since 2010.
For a factbox on coal units to retire, see
Since 2008, SCE&G said it installed more than $600 million in environmental equipment at its largest coal-fired plants to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions.
But, the company said adding environmental control equipment to the older plants to ensure compliance with the new federal regulations would not be a good business decision.
"Since announcing our new nuclear project in 2008, we've said that the addition of the two new nuclear units would give us flexibility to look at reducing our reliance on coal and allow us to achieve better fuel diversity in our electric generation portfolio," Kevin Marsh, Chairman and CEO of Scana, said in the release.
Scana and partners are spending over $9 billion to build two reactors at Scana's Summer plant in South Carolina with the first unit expected in service in 2017 and the second in 2018.
With the planned retirement of the coal units and the new nuclear units, SCE&G said by the end of 2018 roughly a third of its electric generation will be fueled by nuclear power, a third by natural gas and a third by scrubbed coal-fired plants.
SCE&G said it would retire the 105-MW Unit 1 at the Canadys plant by the end of 2012.
It will switch the 94-MW Unit 3 at the Urquhart plant from coal to natural gas by the end of 2012 before retiring the unit by the end of 2018.
And the company will switch the two 125-MW units at the McMeekin plant and the 115-MW Unit 2 and 180-MW Unit 3 at the Canadys plant from coal to gas by 2015 before retiring the two Canadys units by the end of 2017 and the two McMeekin units by the end of 2018.
SCE&G said it employs about 170 people at the three plants and the retirement of Canadys 1 and the switching of Urquhart 3 to gas would impact about 20 positions. The company said it would assist affected employees in finding other positions within the company.
SCE&G supplies power to about 668,000 customers and natural gas to about 319,000 customers in South Carolina.