A new report by Global Energy Monitor (GEM) shows record coal plants closures in most of the world offset by an expansion of coal in China, in 2020. China was responsible fo 85% of the total of 87.4 gigawatts of proposed new coal plants, in 2020.
The report, Boom and Bust 2021: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline, is the 7th annual survey of global planned coal plants. 2020 was the equal 2nd year for the retirement of coal plants in 2020, with 11.3 gigawatts retiring in the US and 10.1 gigawatts retiring in the EU27 region.
During the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, a total of 52.4 gigawatts of coal retired, compared to 48.9 gigawatts during Barack Obama’s presidency. This is despite Trump promising a ‘boom’ in coal, in the US.
The report references Australia, and the largely abandoned plans to construct a 2,000 megawatt coal plant in the Hunter Economic Zone. Most recently, there are new plans to construct a Kurri Kurri gas-fired power station, as proposed by Australia’s federal government. Since 2010, 8,716 megawatts of planned coal-fired power has been cancelled
“In 2020, we saw country after country make announcements to cut the amount of coal power in their future energy plans,” said Christine Shearer, GEM’s Coal Program Director. “We are very likely seeing the last coal plants in planning throughout most of the world.”
“Dozens of new coal power projects, equal to the total coal power capacity of Germany and Poland combined, were announced last year in China,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, CREA’s lead analyst. “These projects are a key test of the country’s pledge to peak emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality before 2060. Cancelling them would put the country on track to the low-carbon development the leadership says it wants to pursue.”
Due to the COVID19 pandemic, the global commission of new coal plants fell to 50.3 gigawatts, a fall of 34% from 2019. Within Asia but outside of China, the report finds that Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia have announced plans to cut up to 62 gigawatts of coal-fired power.
The report also highlights the significant gap between planned coal capacity and the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement. “Although there has been modest progress outside China, no region is close to meeting the required reductions for the 1.5 degree pathway”.
The 1.5 degree pathway requires a total phaseout of coal-fired power by 2030, according to the report; a similar figure for Australia. However, the report states that “the OECD countries with the largest projected coal power capacity in 2030 are the U.S., Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Germany, and Australia”.
The report also highlights that India’s development of new coal plants may be close to peaking, if it has not already. The rate of growth has been slowing, and with some luck, my be set to cease entirely.