Coal capacity grew 2% last year owing to China new builds

COAL power capacity grew 2% last year owing to an increase in new coal plants across China and a slowdown of plant closures in Europe and the US, said the UK’s Guardian newspaper on Thursday.

A report by Global Energy Monitor said about 69.5 gigawatts (GW) of coal plant capacity came online last year, of which two-thirds were built in China. There were also plants built in Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Japan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Korea, Greece and Zimbabwe, the report said.

A slowdown in coal plant shutdowns in the US and Europe led to more than 21GW retiring last year. This resulted in a net annual increase of almost 48.5GW for the year, the highest since 2016.

The Guardian quoted the authors of the report as saying that coal plants needed to shut at a faster pace, and that China needed to adopt stricter controls on its expansion of capacity.

Flora Champenois, a Global Energy Monitor analyst, said: “Otherwise we can forget about meeting our goals in the Paris agreement and reaping the benefits that a swift transition to clean energy will bring”.

Climate scientists have said all coal plants should be shut by 2040 – unless they are fitted with effective carbon-removal technology – if governments hope to limit global heating to within 1.5C of pre-industrialised levels.

This would require an average of 126GW of coal plants to retire from the current fleet of 2,130GW every year for the next 17 years, according to the report, or the equivalent of about two plants a week.