New research has emerged showing that more coal-fired power generation is going offline than is opening in 2020, according to a new report.
The news comes from Global Energy Monitor, who says that the globe’s coal production has fallen for the first-ever time in the first six-months of 2020, with more closures slated for the near future.
While Asia is still heavily reliant on coal-fired electricity generation, Global Energy Monitor says this is being outpaced by the Western economies looking to diversify their energy portfolios, with Europe leading the renewable energy charge.
The report says that while 18.3GW of coal-fired power plants were commissioned in the first six-months of 2020, a total of 21.2GW had been closed down.
Europe led the charge, with 8.3GW of coal production coming to a halt, with Spain closing half of its generators, Britain shutting around one-third and managing two-months without coal entering its energy supply network.
We reported just last week that Portugal had announced plans to exit from burning coal by 2021, two-years earlier than first expected. The European Commission has also handed down a report stating that coal’s share of the network was falling, with renewables providing a record-setting 40% of Europe’s grid with clean-sourced power.
However, China, the world’s largest coal operating economy is home to more than two-thirds of the globe’s total coal power facilities and is currently constructing close to 90% of the remaining coal-fired power plants across the world.
This threatens to undo the progress made in other parts of the world in terms of environmentally-sound energy production.
Global Energy Monitor says, however, that according to its coal plant tracker database, the number of coal power projects is 40% lower than the same time last year, down from 19.4-gigawatts to 11.4-gigawatts.
Christine Shearer, Coal Program Director at the Global Energy Monitor has said that the pandemic, as well as carbon pricing and regulations on pollution have all contributed to the record drops in coal production.
Shearer estimates that electricity produced from coal dropped 3% around the world last year alone.
“I think this could definitely be a moment where things have slowed down enough that countries rethink their coal plans,” Shearer said, adding that “the big question mark is China, and what it announces it will do in its 14th five-year plan.”
In reference to the world’s second-most populous country, India, Shearer said that it had “radically reduced” its plans to export coal-fired electricity, stating that “they don’t have anyone to sell the power to because there are cheaper alternatives,” in reference to energy supplied by renewable sources like solar and wind production.
Countries like Vietnam, Egypt and Bangladesh have previously announced they will scale back coal production and increase renewable energy production for their populations.
Japan has already announced plans for a 1.8GW coal-fired power plant, but says it will close 100 smaller inefficient plants to balance it out. Germany has also commissioned around 1.1GW worth of coal plants, however, it is expected to be decommissioned by 2038 when Germany makes an exit from fossil fuels.
Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has told The Guardian that “no one is saying it is going to happen in the next five years, but the trajectory is clear… how can you compete with solar and wind that has zero marginal cost of supply?”
“They are going to lose. I have zero doubt about it,” he said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has previously estimated that coal-fired electricity generation needs to be rolled back by 50% by 2030 to avoid heating of more than 2-degrees celsius.