Global coal plant capacity under development shrank 13% in 2021, according to Global Energy Monitor’s eighth annual survey of the coal plant pipeline, but steeper cuts are needed to achieve climate goals.
GEM's "Boom and Bust Coal 2022" report finds that after rising in 2020 for the first time since 2015, total coal power capacity under development declined 13% last year, from 525 gigawatts (GW) to 457 GW, a record low. 34 countries have new coal plants under consideration, down from 41 countries in January 2021.
But the world still has more than 2,400 coal-fired power plants operating in 79 countries, for a total of nearly 2,100 GW of capacity. An additional 176 GW of coal capacity is under construction at more than 189 plants, and 280 GW is in pre-construction at 296 plants. In 2021, the operating coal fleet grew by a net 18.2 GW, a post-Covid rebound in a year that saw a slowdown in coal plant retirements.
The directive for a fighting chance at a livable climate is clear – stop building new coal plants and retire existing ones in the developed world by 2030, and the rest of the world soon after. Progress must happen faster to meet the clear demands of climate science for a radical coal phase down within this decade.
The Boom and Bust Coal 2022 report also finds:
- Japan, South Korea, and China all pledged to end public support for new international coal plants, followed by a commitment from all G20 countries ahead of COP26. With these pledges, there is essentially no significant international public financier remaining for new coal plants.
- In 2021, the amount of U.S. coal capacity that retired declined for the second consecutive year, from 16.1 GW in 2019, to 11.6 GW in 2020, to an estimated 6.4 GW to 9 GW in 2021. To meet national energy and climate goals, continued momentum away from coal needs to accelerate.
- The European Union’s 27 member states retired a record 12.9 GW in 2021, with the most retirements in Germany (5.8 GW), Spain (1.7 GW), and Portugal (1.9 GW). Portugal became coal free in November 2021, nine years before its targeted 2030 phase-out date.
“The coal plant pipeline is shrinking, but there is simply no carbon budget left to be building new coal plants. We need to stop, now."Flora Champenois, lead author