Report: There are too many coal-fired power plants in the world to meet the 1.5-degree Celsius climate target

The number of planned new plants fell last year, but coal-fired electricity rose 9% to record highs

Energy / Analysis / Interview
3E news
article picture alt description


The number of coal-fired power plants under development around the world fell last year, but too much coal is still being burned and too many new coal-fired power plants are planned to keep the world within safe temperature limits of the Paris Agreement. Coal use appears to have declined long before the Covid-19 pandemic, but global blockages and economic shocks have led to an increase in new coal projects in 2020, especially in China, according to The Guardian.

Last year, total coal production capacity under development fell sharply again, by about 13%, from 525 GW to 457 GW - a record low for new plants under development, according to a report by the Global Energy Monitor in Tuesday. The number of countries planning new TPPs has also decreased - from 41 at the beginning of 2021 to 34 countries.

But these encouraging signs have been overcome by delays in shutting down older coal-fired power plants that are in the process of being decommissioned. About 25 GW of coal has been produced so far, roughly equal to the amount of new capacity put into operation in China. And the amount of electricity produced from coal rose by 9% in 2021 to a record high, a recovery from the 4% decline in 2020, when the coronary crisis hit for the first time.

The authors of the report concluded that "the last breaths of coal are not yet visible", although the parties agreed at the UN climate summit COP26 in November last year to "gradually reduce" energy, coming from solid fuel. Last year, the International Energy Agency warned that no new studies could be conducted on fossil fuels of any kind if the world decided to limit global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

Continued use of coal comes despite growing warnings from scientists in a recent assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concluded that the world would far exceed the 1.5C limit without rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Flora Champenoa of the Global Energy Monitor, one of the report's authors, said: "Plans for new coal-fired power plants are shrinking because there is simply no carbon budget left to build new coal-fired power plants. We have to stop now. The directive of the latest IPCC report on a chance to fight a habitable climate is clear - stop building new coal-fired power plants and retire existing ones in the developed world by 2030 and in the rest of the world soon after.

The war in Ukraine has also affected gas prices and made coal relatively cheaper, tempting companies and countries to burn more than the dirtiest fuel. But Lauri Milivirta, a lead analyst at the Center for Energy and Clean Air Research and another co-author of the report, said there may be an advantage to the fact that many countries - especially in Europe - are seeking to reform their energy systems. accelerating clean energy and emphasizing energy efficiency. It is really important to note how much movement there is in the direction of clean energy and energy efficiency in response to the invasion, "explains the specialist.

Weakening demand in China is also dampening prospects for a further revival of coal, he added. The country's response to the current resurgence of Covid-19 and the uncertain global economy will be crucial. "The question is whether China is striving for the high-quality economic growth that the party leadership is talking about.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, China has launched more new coal-fired electricity than the rest of the world combined, but the Chinese government's plans to increase clean electricity production by 2025 should mean that less and less coal is used. Despite the fact that new coal-fired power plants are being built.

But the construction of such plants needs to be monitored much more tightly, the report said, or growing overcapacity could hurt the country's transition. There are still more than 2,400 coal-fired power plants operating in 79 countries worldwide, making a total of nearly 2,100 GW of capacity. Only 170 thermal power plants are not covered by a possible phasing-out date or carbon neutrality target. But too few are planned to retire in time to keep the world within 1.5C.



More from Analysis / Interview: