China is building or planning to build some 366 GW in new coal generation capacity, accounting for some 68% of global planned new coal capacity as of 2022.
This is according to a new report by climate think tank Global Energy Monitor, which also found that China accounted for more than half of the new global coal generation capacity that came online last year.
Outside China, coal generation capacity is shrinking, with 2.2 GW getting retired in Europe last year and 13.5 GW of capacity retired in the United States—the highest rate of coal power plant retirement globally.
Total new coal power plant additions last year amounted to 45.5 GW but with closures, the net additions came in at 19.5 GW.
Source: Global Energy Monitor
"The more new projects come online, the steeper the cuts and commitments need to be in the future. At this rate, the transition away from existing and new coal isn’t happening fast enough to avoid climate chaos," said the lead author of the report, Flora Champenois.
Chances are that the transition will continue not to happen fast enough because China and other countries, most notably India, Turkey, and Indonesia, plan to bring significant new coal capacity online.
According to Global Energy Monitor, this will throw the transition off course because “the global pace of retirements needs to move four and half times faster in order to put the world on track to phasing out coal power by 2040, as required to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement.”
Keeping the transition on track, in accordance with Paris Agreement decarbonization targets, all existing coal power generation capacity in the developed world would need to be retired by 2030 and all other coal capacity in the rest of the world would need to go by 2040.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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And while China is the world’s largest investor in renewables, its energy security and the needs of its economy will always take precedence over climate change.
It is a fact of life that countries like China, India, the United States, Russia and Germany with huge coal reserves won’t leave such a cheap and important economic resource underground. Still the reaction of each of these countries vis-à-vis using coal varies according to their energy security and the size of their economies.
And while there is an element of truth in the claim that energy transition may not happen fast enough because of China’s, India’s and other countries’ continued use of large volumes of coal, it is equally fair to admit that the slow progress of renewable is due to their intermittent nature necessitating the use of huge volumes of natural gas, nuclear energy and even coal to help them satisfy part of the global demand for electricity.
Therefore, it is impossible to retire all existing coal power generation capacity in the developed world by 2030 and all other coal capacity in the rest of the world would need to go by 2040.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert