repowering explained

Repowering is the process by which existing coal plants are fitted with new sources of high-temperature heat, but not all power plants make a good fit.

Explore How

Why Repower?

Trillions of dollars are invested in currently operating fossil fuel-fired power plants and their owners and operators are resistant to writing down their assets early, especially when demand for power is still growing and fossil fuels are cheap.

Clean sources of power are being added, including wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear but pollution is not falling quickly enough as demand is still rising and some older nuclear plants are closing.

Repowering process

We can break the process down into 3 simple steps:

1. Remove coal

Evaluate the current coal plant's condition and efficiency. Decide on the best approach to remove the coal burning component.

2. Upgrade Technology

Modify or upgrade the plant with chosen heat source, such as small modular reactors (SMR), geothermal wells, thermal energy storage (TES) or carbon capture.

3. Retrofit Plant

Operate the revamped plant, closely monitoring its emissions to ensure adherence to environmental standards.

Types of repowering

Depending on the age of a thermal-fired power station, repowering can take a number of forms.

Full Repowering

For brand new plants the coal boiler can be replaced with a low-carbon heat source, likely a Small Modular Reactor or Geothermal, then the full steam cycle, condenser cooling system, grid connection, and all auxiliary buildings can be reused with minimal retrofitting requirements.

Partial Repowering

For modern coal plants (effective age of under 15 years) the condenser cooling system, grid connection and all auxiliary buildings can be reused, and even with a new steam cycle, the costs are likely to be significantly lower than any comparable greenfield site.


The sites of old, already decommissioned or fully depreciated units can be repurposed for low-carbon energy generation or storage, in many cases these sites still have an active grid connection.

The Benefits

Coal-fired power plants employ a large number of people in the areas in the local, and often rural, communities.

Repowering a coal-fired power plant would create jobs during the retrofit process and also allow the retention of the existing workforce as many of the same roles would need to be fulfilled.

Learn more

If you want to learn more about the benefits of repowering, watch Staffan Qvist’ presentation on “Repurposing Stranded Assets”, Read Our Reports, or Get in Touch.


What are some repowering technologies for coal plants?

Are there successful examples of coal repowering projects?

Is coal repowering economically viable?

Can repowering coal plants create new job opportunities?

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