climate change

Coal capacity is increasing globally

Steam rising from a cooling tower at a coal power plant in Germany. Photo credit: Reuters / Wolfgang Rattay.

By Anders Lorenzen

New analysis has found that, despite the increasing threat of the climate crisis, the usage of coal, the most CO2 damaging fossil fuel, is on the increase.

Research carried out by The Global Energy Monitor (GEM) found that the global capacity of power plants powered by coal rose nearly 1% last year, as the world bounced back from the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, the capacity of coal power plants grew by 18.2 gigawatts (GW). 

Led by China

The surge in added coal capacity is led by China, the world’s largest emitter. The move has nearly offset coal-power closures in other countries, as it has added 25.2 GW of new coal power capacity. 25.6 GW of coal power was closed down in 2021, highlighting that outside China much progress is made in moving away from coal.

Research Analyst at GEM Flora Champenois, said about the research: “It’s up by a small number. But it comes at a time when the world needs a dramatic fall in the capacity, not any rise.”

Energy security

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, countries have focused their energy strategies on energy security over decarbonisation and decreasing fossil fuel usage. Germany, for instance, has been considering using more coal to replace Russian gas.

In the US, the world’s second-largest emitter, the pledges they made last year during the COP26 climate summit to end international finance for most fossil fuel projects by 2022 may no longer be possible; the Biden Administration faces calls for an exemption to its pledge.

The good news from GEM’s research is that the growth of global coal power capacity is slowing down. In 2021 the capacity of coal power capacity being added fell from 525 GW in 2020 to 457 GW, the analysis found. 

However, climate advocates are surely worried that, at a time when we should drastically reduce coal power capacity, we are still effectively expanding it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s