Over half of EU coal plants are losing money

54 per cent of all coal plants in the EU are running at a loss, and that figure is set to rise to an overwhelming 97 per cent by 2030, finds a new Carbon Tracker report. A complete phase-out of coal could save investors over 22 billion euros.

Coal power continues to be on the losing side of energy history. According to a new report from Carbon Tracker, forthcoming air quality standards and carbon prices are pushing up coal operating costs. Clean technology costs, in contrast, continue to fall, and the different trajectories are such that it will be cheaper to build new onshore wind and solar projects by 2024 and 2027 respectively than to operate existing coal plants.

“The changing economics of renewables, as well as air pollution policy and rising carbon prices, has put EU coal power in a death spiral. Utilities can’t do much to stop this other than drop coal or lobby governments and hope they will bail them out,” Matt Gray, Carbon Tracker analyst and co-author of the report Lignite of the Living Dead, said in a statement announcing the report’s release.

Carbon Tracker analysed the profitability of each of the 619 coal units in the 28 EU Member States to look at the financial implications of a coal phase-out in Europe consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The conclusions were stark.

“54 per cent of Europe’s coal plants are already running at a loss, and by 2030 virtually all of them will be,” said co-author and Carbon Tracker data scientists Laurence Watson.

Despite these findings, utilities currently only plan to close 27 of coal power capacity by 2030, putting investors on the line for major losses. However, a complete coal phase-out by then could reduce utility losses by 22 billion euros.

Seven countries have already set a date for ending coal power by 2030 or earlier: Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK. These countries are “not only acting in the best interests of their citizens through improved quality, but also the financial interests of utility shareholders,” according to the report.


Image credit: Jonathan Brennan via Flickr

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