Recently constructed coal-fired plants in Asia are raising global emissions from coal, despite the drop in the number of coal-fired power plants in operation around the world over the last three years, according to two recent reports.
The first report, published on Tuesday March 26th by the International Energy Agency (IEA), shows global energy consumption rose by 2.3% in 2018. This is nearly twice the average increase in energy consumption since 2010.
The IEA pinned a third of that growth to the greater use of coal. Together, they estimate that higher use of coal and gas energy sources are responsible for 70% of the increase in global energy consumption.
Global carbon emissions also rose 1.7% to hit a new record, according to the report. While renewables are also growing at double -digit rates, that growth is: “still not fast enough to meet the increase in demand for electricity around the world,” the report said.
The increase in coal use is coming primarily from Asia, which now produces the majority of the world’s coal-fired energy. India and China each increased coal-produced energy by about 20 million tonnes of coal equivalent. At the same time, during the past year the US reduced coal use by 15 million tonnes of coal equivalent, while European coal consumption dropped by an additional nine million tonnes.
Sharply falling Western coal
A second report, released by the Global Energy Monitor, confirms the drop in coal-fired plants across the globe. The report shows that the number of new coal plants beginning construction each year has dropped 84% since 2015 and by 39% in 2018 alone. Meanwhile, the number of finished plants has fallen by half since 2015.
The number of plants on which construction has begun each year has fallen by 84% since 2015, and 39% in 2018 alone, while the number of completed plants has dropped by more than half since 2015.
The report points to the falling costs of renewable energy that are making it more attractive, along with the decisions by more than 100 financial institutions to blacklist coal producers.
However, Christine Shearer of the Global Energy Monitor, and one of the co-authors of the report, said existing coal plants cannot be retained in order to keep global warming below 2C. “We need to radically phase down coal plant use over the next decade to keep on track for Paris climate goals,” she said, according to The Guardian.
The report says that China may still be using more coal than reported, citing satellite photos that show developers restarting dozens of coal projects that had been suspended. China and India have accounted for 85% of new coal power capacity since 2005, the report says.
In addition, the average age of power plants in Asia is now just 12 years. Average plant lifetimes are 30 to 35 years.
According to the report it was the fact that the US accounts for more than half of the total coal plant retirements. This is the case despite efforts by the Trump administration to prevent the closure of current plants.