The blackout was relatively minor, but it likely could have been prevented if D.C. was still served by a coal-fired power plant called Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria, Virginia. That “must run” 482-megawatt unit used to help manage electric demand in downtown Washington at peak times and would have been tripped as a substitute in emergencies like the one in Maryland.
While the 60-year-old Potomac station was rarely run, it was a particular target of the anti-fossil fuel movement given its proximity to Washington. In 2011 Michael Bloomberg even announced a $50 million donation to the Sierra Club on a boat docked in front of the station, with its smoke stacks as the political backdrop. …
The project claims credit for 188 coal scalps so far, and one of them was Potomac River Generating Station, which was shut down in late 2012. “Retiring this major source of pollution in our nation’s capital signals a huge symbolic step towards moving the nation beyond coal,” the Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune said in a statement at the time. “But the win today didn’t happen overnight. It is a culmination of many years of hard work by local activists and concerned residents.”
The result is that Washington has little margin for electric error.