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China’s Coal Rush Causes Global Capacity To Rise For The First Time Since 2015

The world’s net capacity additions of coal-fired power generation rose in 2019 for the first time since 2015, due to a surge in the Chinese coal fleet, a new report from environmental organizations shows.

Worldwide, a total of 68.3 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power were commissioned last year, with 34.2 GW retired. This shift resulted in a net increase in the global coal fleet of 34.1 GW, according to findings from Global Energy Monitor (GEM), Sierra Club, Greenpeace International, and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).   

This was the first such increase since 2015, as commissioning increased from 2018 levels and retirements flattened, the report says.

As much as 64 percent of the newly-commissioned coal capacity was in China, another 12 percent came from India, and the remaining 24 percent was mainly in Asian countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan.

Almost half of the retired coal power capacity in 2019 was in the United States, the second-highest on record, the report showed.  

“Under Trump, US coal plant retirements have increased 67% compared to Obama. Retirements averaged 8.2 GW a year during Obama’s tenure (2009–2016), and 13.7 GW a year during Trump’s tenure (2017–2019),” the authors of the report wrote.

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Despite the increase in global coal capacity in 2019, the amount of power generated globally from coal fell by 3 percent year-on-year, with global coal plants operating at an average 51 percent of their available operating hours, a record low, according to the report.    

“Though coal is still advancing in some Asian countries, the rest of the world is clearly seeing an overall decline in the coal fleet. This is an international trend that is only going to continue,” Gyorgy Dallos, Global Strategist for Greenpeace International, said, commenting on the report.  

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A study from Global Energy Monitor showed in November 2019 that between January 2018 and June 2019, the world minus China saw their total coal power capacity decline by 8.1 GW. At the same time, China increased its coal-fired power plant fleet by 42.9 GW, resulting in the global coal fleet growing by 34.9 GW between January 2018 and June 2019.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova  for Oilprice.com

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