San Francisco, CA–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, according to a new report led by Global Energy Monitor (GEM). In total, China was home to 85% of the 87.4 gigawatts (GW) of proposed new coal plants in 2020.
The report, Boom and Bust 2021: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline, is the seventh annual survey of the global coal plant pipeline. A record-tying 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. President Trump’s promised coal boom was a bust as U.S. coal plant retirements during Trump’s four-year term rose to 52.4 GW, exceeding the 48.9 GW retired during President Obama’s second term.
China commissioned 38.4 GW of new coal plants in 2020, comprising 76% 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% 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% 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 5% from 28.3 GW in 2019 to 27.0 GW in 2020. However, outside of China, new construction starts fell by 74%, from 21.1 GW in 2019 to 5.5 GW in 2020.
“In 2020, we saw country after country make announcements to cut the amount of coal power in their future energy plans,” said Christine Shearer, GEM’s Coal Program Director. “We are very likely seeing the last coal plants in planning throughout most of the world.”
“Dozens of new coal power projects, equal to the total coal power capacity of Germany and Poland combined, were announced last year in China,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, CREA’s lead analyst. “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.”
In addition to GEM the report’s co-authors are the Sierra Club, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), Climate Risk Horizons, GreenID, and Ekosfer.
About Global Energy Monitor
Global Energy Monitor (GEM) develops and shares information on fossil fuel projects in support of the worldwide movement for clean energy. Current projects include the Global Coal Plant Tracker, the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, the Europe Gas Tracker, the CoalWire newsletter, and the GEM wiki. For more information, visit www.globalenergymonitor.org
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
About the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air
The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) is an independent research organisation focused on revealing the trends, causes, and health impacts, as well as the solutions to air pollution. For more information, visit www.energyandcleanair.org.
About Climate Risk Horizons
Climate Risk Horizons identifies and analyzes the financial impact that the climate crisis is having on India, and how this will play out over longer time horizons. These impacts arise directly from climate change itself, and from the disruption that will accompany transition. Recent work includes quantifying the financial benefits from an accelerated phase out of old coal plants. For more information, visit https://climateriskhorizons.com.
GreenID works to promote sustainable development in Vietnam and the larger Mekong region, and recognizes that to promote sustainability it must address constraints related to governance, organizational structures and social and technology integration. GreenID has project-specific experience coupled with cutting edge global knowledge and theory to help integrate sustainable solutions into policy and local communities. For more information, visit http://en.greenidvietnam.org.vn.
Ekosfer is an environmental organisation focusing primarily on stopping the climate crisis by promoting the implementation of necessary policies, ensuring that economic activities do not disturb the balance of nature and protecting the right to life for all living things. For more information, visit https://ekosfer.org.