Aug 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Global coal-fired power generating capacity sees first half-year decline on record

A power plant.

A field of sunflowers is within sight of the Mehrum coal-fired power station in Germany. Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

The global amount of coal-fired power generating capacity fell slightly in the first half of 2020 as plant closures outpaced additions, per new data Monday from the group Global Energy Monitor.

Why it matters: It's the first half-year decline on record, Christine Shearer, the group's coal program director, writes in Carbon Brief. Coal-fired power plants are a huge source of global CO2 emissions.

The latest: The net amount of global capacity fell by 2.9 gigawatts to 2,047 GW, the group reports.

  • "The fall — including a decline in India — was due to a combination of slowed commissioning due to the Covid-19 pandemic and record retirements in the EU from strengthened pollution regulations."
  • New plant additions were concentrated largely in China, the world's biggest CO2 emitter.
  • The net decline is a stark contrast from the average of 25GW of growth each half year for the past two decades.

Yes, but: A combined hundreds of gigawatts are under construction or in the planning stages, according to the group.

  • "Despite the decline in the global coal fleet, meeting global climate goals requires a much more rapid reduction in coal power use, with generation falling by at least half this decade in pathways that limit warming to well-below 2C, and up to three-fourths for 1.5C," Shearer writes.
Go deeper