Down tools! Chinese authorities and Indian bankers have just come to realize that new coal plants are a major waste of resources. Photo: / William CC BY NC ND

Global free-fall in coal plant development

Work has frozen at over 100 projects in China and India, in addition there is a 62 per cent decline in global construction starts and a 48 per cent drop in pre-construction activity.

The number of coal-fired power plants under development worldwide saw a dramatic drop in 2016, mainly due to shifting policies in Asia, according to a new report released by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and CoalSwarm. The report, Boom and Bust 2017: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline, is the third annual survey of the global coal plant pipeline. Its findings include a 48 per cent decline in overall pre-construction activity, a 62 per cent drop in new construction starts, and an 85 per cent decline in new Chinese coal plant permits.

Reasons for the rapid fall-off include a dramatic clampdown on new coal plant projects by Chinese central authorities and financial retrenchment by coal plant backers in India. In China and India, construction is now frozen at over 100 project sites. In addition to the decline in new plant development, the survey also found a record-breaking 64 gigawatts of coal plant retirements in the past two years, mainly in the European Union and the US – the equivalent of nearly 120 large coal-fired units.

According to the report, the combination of a slowed new coal plant pipeline and an increase in outdated coal plant retirements brings the possibility of holding global temperature increase to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels “within feasible reach,” provided countries continue to step up action. “This has been a messy year, and an unusual one,” said Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm. “It’s not normal to see construction frozen at scores of locations, but central authorities in China and bankers in India have come to recognize overbuilding of coal plants as a major waste of resources. However abrupt, the shift from fossil fuels to clean sources in the power sector is a positive one for health, climate security, and jobs. And by all indications, the shift is unstoppable.”

“The staggering uptick in clean energy and reduction in the new coal plant pipeline is even more proof that coal isn’t just bad for public health and the environment – it’s bad for the bottom line,” said Nicole Ghio, senior campaigner for the Sierra Club’s International Climate and Energy Campaign. “Markets are demanding clean energy, and no amount of rhetoric from Donald Trump will be able to stop the fall of coal in the US and across the globe.”

“2016 marked a veritable turning point,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, senior global campaigner on Coal and Air Pollution at Greenpeace. “China all but stopped new coal projects after astonishing clean energy growth has made new coal-fired power plants redundant, with all additional power needs covered from non-fossil sources since 2013. Closures of old coal plants drove major emission reductions especially in the US and UK, while Belgium and Ontario became entirely coal-free and three G8 countries announced deadlines for coal phase-outs.”

 The report singles out Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Turkey as countries that have failed to develop their renewable energy sectors in step with their peers and continue to build and plan new highly polluting coal plants.

Sources:  Report: Global Coal Plant Development Freefall Sparks Renewed Hope On Climate Goals
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