China’s planned increase in coal capacity upsetting global trend of reducing coal dependence, says research
San Francisco/IBNS: While the United States and European Union are reducing their coal plant development to lower the use of this carbon-intensive natural resource and one of the chief reasons behind adverse climate change, China is increasing its coal capacity, according to a report by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM).
GEM is a San Francisco-based non-governmental organization which shares information in support of clean energy.
According to GEM, a steep increase in coal plant development in China offset a retreat from coal in the rest of the world in 2020, resulting in the first increase in global coal capacity development since 2015.
China was home to 85 per cent of the 87.4 gigawatts (GW) of proposed new coal plants in 2020.
Titled 'Boom and Bust 2021: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline', it is the seventh annual survey of the global coal plant pipeline.
Besides GEM, the report has been co-authored by the Sierra Club, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), Climate Risk Horizons, GreenID, and Ekosfer.
A record 37.8 GW of coal plants were retired in 2020, led by the U.S. with 11.3 GW and EU27 with 10.1 GW.
The report highlighted that despite former US President Donald Trump’s promised coal boom, coal plant retirements during his four-year term rose to 52.4 GW, exceeding the 48.9 GW retired during former President Obama’s second term.
According to the report, China commissioned 38.4 GW of new coal plants in 2020, comprising 76 per cent of the global total (50.3 GW).
Outside China, 11.9 GW was commissioned and, taking into account closures, the global coal fleet outside China declined by 17.2 GW in 2020 – the third year in a row that coal power capacity outside China shrank.
Outside China, the coal plant development pipeline is collapsing in Asia, as Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia have announced plans to cut up to 62.0 GW of planned coal power.
GEM estimates the policies will leave 25.2 GW of coal power capacity remaining in pre-construction planning in the four countries—an 80 per cent decline from the 125.5 GW planned there just five years ago, in 2015.
Globally, commissioning of new plants fell to 50.3 GW in 2020, a decline of 34 per cent from 2019, as projects in development struggled to obtain financing and many projects were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In India, coal power capacity rose by just 0.7 GW in 2020, with 2.0 GW commissioned and 1.3 GW retired.
New construction starts fell 5per cent from 28.3 GW in 2019 to 27.0 GW in 2020.
However, outside of China, new construction starts fell by 74 per cent, from 21.1 GW in 2019 to 5.5 GW in 2020.
Christine Shearer, GEM’s Coal Program Director, said, “In 2020, we saw country after country make announcements to cut the amount of coal power in their future energy plans. We are very likely seeing the last coal plants in planning throughout most of the world.”
Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst from CREA, said that dozens of new coal power projects, equal to the total coal power capacity of Germany and Poland combined, were announced last year in China.
He said, “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.”