Coal power plant pipeline freefalls

The number of coal-fired power plants under development is plunging worldwide, according to a new report from three prominent environmental organisations. Their findings renew hope that the 2°C climate target is ‘within feasible reach’.

According to a new report from Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and CoalSwarm, the number of coal-fired power plants under development worldwide saw a dramatic drop in 2016. There was a 48 per cent decline overall in pre-construction activity, a 62 per cent drop in new construction starts and an 85 per cent decline in new Chinese coal plant permits.

Much of the decline is due to shifting policies in Asia, according to a joint statement announcing the report’s publication. Central authorities in China have clamped down on new coal plant projects in response to the country’s debilitating air pollution, and coal plant investors in India are backing away from projects. Construction is now frozen at over 100 project sites across China and India.

The report also found that a record-breaking number of coal plants were retired in the past two years. In total, 64 gigawatts of coal capacity has been frozen, which corresponds to the equivalent of nearly 120 large coal-fired units. Most of the retired coal plants are found in the EU and US.

Slowed coal plant development combined with an increase in out-dated coal plant retirements brings renewed hope of keeping global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels “within feasible reach”, write the report’s authors.

“The staggering uptick in clean energy and reduction in the new coal plant pipeline is even more proof that coal isn’t just bad for public health and the environment — it’s bad for the bottom line,” said Nicole Ghio from the Sierra Club.

“Markets are demanding clean energy, and no amount of rhetoric from Donald Trump will be able to stop the fall of coal in the U.S. and across the globe.”

But while positive change was observed in Asia’s two largest countries, the report singles out Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam for failing to develop their renewable energy sectors and continue to build and plan new highly polluting coal plants. It also mentioned Turkey as being out of step with its peers.


Image credit: Jonathan Brennan, flickr/Creative Commons

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