As regulations tighten on coal-fired power plants, a record number of utilities are expected to retire ageing plants between now and 2020.
A report from Navigant Research says companies that demolish buildings, haul away debris, and salvage polluted land can make more than $5 billion by 2020.
Navigant Research forecasts the market for coal plant decommissioning in North America and Europe, where most of the action will take place, will grow from $455 million in 2013 to $1.3 billion by 2016.
Worldwide revenue from coal plant decommissioning services will total $5.3 billion from 2013 to 2020.
“Utilities and other plant owners face a series of complex decisions in retiring aging coal plants,” Navigant Research editorial director Richard Martin said in a statement.
“Developing a strategic plan, in consultation with a company that has experience in these major plant decommissioning projects, will be a critical element of the process of retiring these facilities and remediating the associated environmental issues.”
According to the report, environmental remediation will be the most costly part of the process, far more than the actual demolition of the plant.
“Disposing of coal ash, typically stored in ponds onsite, will present a serious challenge in carrying out decommissioning projects,” the report says.
It says consultants, engineering, procurement, and construction companies, demolition companies and environmental remediation firms will be the main businesses to benefit.
The nation has more than 1142 coal-fired plants and 3967 gas-fired plants across the country, with many coal-fired units transitioning to the latter.
Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, about 15,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants have closed and most of those generating companies have also announced plans to shut more than 37,000MW of coal-fired units over the next 10 years or so.