Global coal plant pipeline shrinks for third year in a row

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Global coal power capacity in pre-construction has fallen nearly 70% since 2015, when it was 1,090GW. In 2018, proposed capacity dropped nearly 25%, from 447GW in 2017 to 339GW.

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For the third year in a row, most leading indicators of coal power capacity growth declined in 2018, including construction starts, pre-construction activity, and plant completions, according to the Global Coal Plant Tracker.

The amount of coal power capacity in pre-construction stages has declined every year since 2015. In 2018, proposed capacity dropped nearly a quarter, from 447 gigawatts (GW) in 2017 to 339GW.

Overall, the pre-construction pipeline has fallen nearly 70 per cent since 2015, when it was 1,090 GW.

Planned new coal capacity has fallen particularly rapidly in China and India. At the end of 2015, China had plans to construct 515 GW of new coal power capacity.

That figure now stands at 70 GW, an 86% decline. In India, the pre-construction pipeline has shrunk 83%, from 218 GW in 2015 to 36 GW today.

Plants in pre-construction status would have declined further if not for the emergence in the past few years of several large coal plant proposals (between 4GW to 6.6GW each) in Russia, Egypt, South Africa, and Bangladesh, all supported by Chinese finance.

Combined, the proposals make up over 12% (21.2 GW) of the 174 GW of proposed capacity outside China and India without a construction permit.

Still, the pipeline across the rest of the world also continues to shrink. Japan has cancelled over 7GW of proposed coal capacity since 2017, while South Korea has stopped issuing permits for new coal plants.

The only countries with an over 1GW increase in 2018 pre-construction capacity were the Philippines, Nigeria, and Russia.

“The appetite for building new coal plants is waning around the world, including across the US which is undergoing a coal crash. But these trends must be accelerated and huge climate risks remain, so wherever they can, fund managers should commit to a full phase out of coal, and be clear that coal has no future if we want to limit global warming,” said Jan Erik Saugestad, CEO of Storebrand Asset Management, which has committed to exiting coal entirely by 2026, and already has strict exclusion policies in place.

“This must include limiting investments in companies involved in current and new coal fired power plants.

“The report is clear: emissions from currently operating coal plants, utilized at an average rate and lifetime are too high to hold global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. This needs to be a wake-up call – investors should plan for their exit, while increasing their investments in solutions.”

This is an edited extract from Boom and Bust 2019, TRACKING THE GLOBAL COAL PLANT PIPELINE, by Christine Shearer, Neha Mathew-Shah, Lauri Myllyvirta, Aiqun Yu, and Ted Nace. The report was released by Global Energy Monitor, Greenpeace Environment Trust, and the Sierra Club.

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