The steep increase in coal plant development in China offset a retreat from coal in the rest of the world last year, resulting in a rise for the first time since the ratification of the Paris Agreement in 2015, according to a new report led by Global Energy Monitor (GEM) on Tuesday.
The report, Boom and Bust 2021: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline, is the seventh annual survey of the global coal plant pipeline which found that a record-tying 37.8 gigawatts (GW) of coal plants were retired last year.
The US with 11.3 GW and the EU with 10.1 GW led the retreat.
The report showed that a higher capacity of coal, 52.4 GW, was closed in the US during the administration of former President Donald Trump compared to 48.9 GW during Barack Obama's second term.
Last year, China commissioned 38.4 GW of new coal plants, comprising 76% of the global total of 50.3 GW.
Commissioning of new plants dropped to 50.3 GW in 2020, a decline of 34% from the previous year. Outside China, 11.9 GW was commissioned and taking closures into account, the global coal fleet outside China declined by 17.2 GW in 2020, the third year in a row that coal power capacity outside China shrank, the report revealed.
Struggles with accessing finance and the COVID-19 pandemic were among the main reasons for this drop.
New construction starts fell 5% from 28.3 GW in 2019 to 27 GW in 2020. However, outside of China, new construction starts dropped by 74%, from 21.1 GW in 2019 to 5.5 GW in 2020.
In Asia countries like Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia plans were announced to cut up to 62 GW of planned coal capacity.
The policies of these countries are estimated to leave 25.2 GW of coal power capacity remaining in pre-construction planning, which corresponds to an 80% decline from the 125.5 GW planned capacity in 2015, the report said.
"In 2020, we saw country after country make announcements to cut the amount of coal power in their future energy plans," Christine Shearer, GEM’s coal program director, said.
"We are very likely seeing the last coal plants in planning throughout most of the world," she noted.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya