FirstEnergy Corp. has idled its 2,490 MW coal-fired Bruce Mansfield Plant in Beaver County, PA, citing low energy prices.

The plant’s three units have been offline since late February, according to FirstEnergy spokeswoman Stephanie Walton, with one of the units idled for a planned maintenance outage. The Akron, OH-based electric utility has no plans to permanently shutter the plant and is currently in the process of upgrading Bruce Mansfield with a $260 million coal ash dewatering facility, she said.

FirstEnergy anticipates bringing the plant, owned by a deregulated arm of the company, back online once “energy prices are high enough to support operation of those units” or if the generation capacity is needed for reliability reasons, she said.

“We’re continuing to bid those units into the market every day. We’ll continue to watch those prices, and as soon as they’re high enough to run those units, they’ll go back online,” Walton said. “In the meantime, all of our employees are still coming to work.”

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), cheap natural gas drove down wholesale electricity rates in 2015, making coal-fired generating units less competitive (see Daily GPI, Jan. 11). Gas usurped coal’s once dominant place as the top generating fuel for much of the second half of the year (see Daily GPI, Dec. 2, 2015; Oct. 28, 2015).

EIA revealed this month that 80% of the 18 GW of generating capacity retired in 2015 came from coal-fired units (see Daily GPI, March 8).

FirstEnergy has been working to convince the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to grant the utility’s controversial profit-guarantee request, which is designed to help keep its coal and nuclear generating units online in the state’s deregulated electricity market.

Meanwhile, other major power utilities, such as Duke Energy and Southern Company, have been strategically buying up additional interest in natural gas midstream and downstream assets (see Daily GPI, Dec. 24, 2015).