Global coal-fired electricity generation suffers biggest ever fall in 2019 | RenewEconomy

Global coal-fired electricity generation suffers biggest ever fall in 2019

International Energy Agency says coal fired generation to suffer biggest ever fall in 2019, with decisions in China likely to decide its future.

The Yallourn coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria

Global coal-fired electricity generation is expected to suffer its biggest ever fall in 2019, according to the annual industry assessment from the conservative International Energy Agency, and its near term future will depend almost entirely on decisions made in China’s next five-year plan.

According to the International Energy Agency’s Coal 2019 report, released this week in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2019 will see a record-breaking decline in coal-fired electricity generation capacity of over 250 terawatt hours (more than Australia’s entire electricity output), or more than 2.5% of global output.

The falls have largely been driven by double-digit reductions in the US and in Europe, including in Germany were coal generation is expected to fall by a massive 18 per cent. Cheap gas is partly responsible, but cheap renewables are also having their mark, with renewables expect to overtake coal in the US in 2020.

I”n 2019, global coal power generation will experience the biggest drop ever, and coal power generation in India will probably decline for the first time in 45 years,” said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s director of energy markets and security.

It is too soon to gauge whether the expected decline in 2019 coal power generation will be the beginning of a lasting trend, or whether it will just be a one-off event. Ultimately, according to the IEA, global trends rely heavily on China, which currently accounts for half of the world’s coal production and consumption.

At best, however, electricity generation from coal is expected to rise only marginally over the same period – at less than 1% per year – and even this rise will see its share of global electricity production drop from 38% in 2018 to 35% in 2024.

“Wind and solar PV are growing rapidly in many parts of the world. With investment in new plants drying up, coal power capacity outside Asia is clearly declining and will continue to do so in the coming years,” said Sadamori.

“But this is not the end of coal, since demand continues to expand in Asia. The region’s share of global coal power generation has climbed from just over 20% in 1990 to almost 80% in 2019, meaning coal’s fate is increasingly tied to decisions made in Asian capitals.”

Coal’s role in generation is dropping to levels not seen in decades in places like the United States and Europe, where a mixture of government policy and private sector appetite for renewables has made coal-fired power generation increasingly obsolete.

Growth in solar PV and wind capacity – especially when safeguarded by battery storage – low natural gas prices, and stagnating electricity demand in these developed regions have created what the IEA describes as “a perfect storm for coal … where coal plants retirements continue to take place.”

Further, the IEA expects this decline in coal’s importance will accelerate in developed nations over the next five years, although it also expects the speed of declines to slow unless stronger climate policies or lower-than-expected natural gas prices further push coal’s relevance off the proverbial cliff face.

Australia’s resources minister Matt Canavan responded to the IEA report by issuing a press released titled “IEA Outlook shows continuing strong demand for Australian coal.” There was no mention of the record decline in coal generation in 2019.

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  1. Riley 10 months ago

    “released this wee in Johannesburg”


  2. Joe Strummer 10 months ago

    Easily the largest coal exporter at 37.8% of world demand means Australia is more prone to the necessary decline of coal than anywhere else. Morrison and his government’s solution is to continue to talk up coal and every vague opportunity; which is no solution at all. We need a national plan to progressively migrate away from coal. Not having a plan means it will be sudden, dramatic, and a complete disaster for the Australian economy. Stable government – horse’s arse.

  3. Andrew Roydhouse 10 months ago

    Does make you wonder.

    If we cannot generate a big enough trade surplus NOW to even pay off the interest on our foreign debt – what level will the AUD be in 5 or 10 years time?

    For some odd reason – once a country has industrialised (aka what China has nearly transitioned fully to & India is about 1/3rd of the way there) their demand for iron ore plummets.

    Imagine if Coal demand and iron ore demand were even to peak (let alone fall).

    Also typically the increased demand for energy also tails off – so exporting power is not so lucrative (gas, electricity).

    1 AUD = 0.20 USD anyone, or 0.13 EUR, or 0.16 GBP perhaps?

  4. Ken Dyer 10 months ago

    It’s hard to keep up with all this. On th one hand we see articles that say that China is building dozens of new coal fired power stations, and on the other hand we see articles such as this. One of those is fake news.

    • Chris Drongers 10 months ago

      China’s working population (who are the people with the money to buy things and are having kids) has started its decline; over the next 20 years China will lose a net 100 M workers! Industrial output will fall. Apart from airconditioning the huge 175 M increase in retirees won’t need much power, certainly compared to hundreds of factories churning out TVs. So with even modest (30-50 GW/year) increases in renewables, fossil fuel growth in China is not going to happen.

  5. John Saint-Smith 10 months ago

    This is not an economic argument, it is and ecological one. . We are faced with a stark choice. Either Australia’s economy collapses because the world wakes up to the fact that further combustion of coal is worse than no development at all, or Australia’s economy collapses because half the country is no longer habitable, making our agricultural industries non-viable, due to flood, fire, famine and disease, which will progressively move closer to the coast. We might live in the eastern fringe, but our economy springs from the interior. Even our tourism, based on our natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree and Tarkine forests will succumb to the ravages of global warming.

    Yet despite the survey which suggest that the overwhelming majority of Australian citizens and businesses believe we should be making a much greater effort to combat climate change, both groups still support a government which chooses to do nothing, except talk up the virtues of more of the same. Labor believes in acting on climate change, but they know that there are no votes there, so they sell out to the coal industry. The Greens offer the only viable policy on the new economy, but no more than 15% of the electorate will vote for them. Many people actually say ‘I’d rather die than vote Green.’ Well, they’ll get their wish.

    Even the aborigines are threatening to leave their traditional homelands in the centre – because it has never been this hot, dry and dangerous in 60,000 years.

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