Stories by Justin Guay

Expert Voices

Asian banks are backing away from new coal plants

MUFG's office building in Tokyo
MUFG bank's headquarters in Tokyo. Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

In the first four months of 2019, four major financial institutions headquartered in Asia have announced restrictions on the financing of new coal plants — a noteworthy shift within the region.

Why it matters: Until recently, such restrictions came largely from Western financial institutions. But the majority of planned new coal plants are being built in just four Asian countries — China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia — and increasingly underwritten by Asian financial institutions.

Expert Voices

Renewables are pulling ahead in formerly coal-heavy states

coal-fired power plant
A coal-fired power plant outside Kingston, Tennessee. Photo: Paul Harris/Getty Images

Thanks to the declining costs of wind and solar energy, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico and other states have made plans to retire old coal plants early — paving the way for deeper penetration of clean energy.

The big picture: At least 36 gigawatts (GW) of the country's 260 GW of existing coal generation are forecast to close by 2024, continuing the trend from last year's record 15 GW of coal retirements. These transitions are often moving ahead without political pressure and in states that lack renewable energy mandates.

Expert Voices

Coal burned to make steel and cement is still a major emissions source

A concrete factory
A concrete factory. Photo: Carter Dayne/Getty Images

Although coal continues to be phased out of electricity generation, it remains integral to producing materials for infrastructure projects like buildings, bridges and roads.

The big picture: Coal is the most emissions-intensive fossil fuel, and steel and cement production account for more than 20% of the world's use. While options exist to reduce or eliminate coal from those processes, many of the necessary technologies require policies, incentives and new markets to bring down the costs of commercial deployment.