How much credit can Beyond Coal claim for plant closures?

This article assesses the impact that Michael Bloomberg and the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign have had on coal plant closures.

In 2011, when the Sierra Club and then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the Beyond Coal campaign, coal accounted for 42% of America’s power generation. Today, that figure is closer to 25%.

Now, the pair is aiming to finish the job. On Friday, Bloomberg announced he will spend $500 million to retire America’s remaining coal plants by 2030, halt construction of new natural gas plants and elect climate champions to public office as part of a new Beyond Carbon initiative. A press release touted it as the largest philanthropic climate donation ever.

“Our goal is to move the U.S. toward a 100% clean energy economy as expeditiously as possible, and begin that process right now,” Bloomberg told graduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he announced the initiative as part of a commencement address. “We intend to succeed not by sacrificing things we need, but by investing in things we want: more good jobs, cleaner air and water, cheaper power, more transportation options, and less congested roads.”

Beyond Coal, operated as an arm of the Sierra Club, is fond of touting the number of plants retired since 2011: Some 289 of the 530 units in operation at that time are now closed. The campaign can claim some credit for the trend, but how much is difficult to quantify.

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