Net 2.9 gigawatts of coal power lost in first half of 2020
China risks building overcapacity as Asia scales back growth
Global coal-fired power capacity edged down for the first time on record in the first half of 2020 as retirements accelerated and the coronavirus saw new projects put on hold.
The closing of plants, especially in Europe and the U.S., outpaced the start of new units, more than 60% of which were in China, according to a report by Global Energy Monitor. The net decline of 2.9 gigawatts may be small, at just over 0.1% of the world’s coal generation capacity, but marks a turning point in the burning of the dirtiest fossil fuel to produce electricity.
“The Covid pandemic has paused coal plant development around the world and offers a unique opportunity for countries to reassess their future energy plans and choose the cost-optimal path, which is to replace coal power with clean energy,” said Christine Shearer, program director for coal at Global Energy Monitor.
As developed economies in Europe and North America increasingly shift toward cleaner energy sources, mining companies are looking to fast-growing Asian countries to shore up demand for the heavy polluting fossil fuel. Still, world coal demand is set for its biggest annual drop since World War II as economic activity plunges due to coronavirus lockdowns, the International Energy Agency said in April.
The pace of new construction in Asia is slowing, with countries including Bangladesh and Vietnam considering restricting or deferring new coal plants, according to Global Energy Monitor, which gathers information from public sources, such as media articles, and non-government agencies.
China’s coal power expansion would exacerbate overcapacity, according to the report, which cited a study from the University of Maryland that projected the average utilization rate for the country’s coal plants could drop to 45% by 2025.
READ MORE ABOUT CHINA’S COAL POWER EXPANSION
China Coal Power Developments Up 21% from End-2019: Report
Coal’s Death Greatly Exaggerated as Fuel Lives Large in Asia
China Seen Adding New Wave of Coal Plants After Lifting Curbs
China’s Coal-Fired Power Capacity Seen Peaking in 2025: WoodMac
The United Nations has called for a moratorium on new coal plant builds by 2020 to help meet Paris climate agreement targets, yet there is still around 190 gigawatts of capacity under construction worldwide, according to GEM.
(Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has committed $500 million to launch Beyond Carbon, a campaign aimed at closing the remaining coal-powered plants in the U.S. by 2030 and slowing the construction of new gas plants.)