A new report by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and research network CoalSwarm shows that the amount of new coal power built fell two thirds last year globally. It showed that the amount of new coal capacity being built had fallen by 62 percent in 2016 from the year before. Construction had been frozen at over one hundred coal projects in China and India. The report attributed the decline to policies to reduce carbon emissions and pollution in China and India. In January of this year, regulatory authorities in China stopped work on additional hundred prospective coal sites.
According to researchers, last year also saw a record quantity of coal capacity closed down in the EU and the US. In March of last year, Scotland closed its last remaining coal power station.
In China, more capacity had been built in the last few years than was necessary. Director of energy finance studies at the thinktank IEEFA, Tim Buckley, said the falling demand there, and in India, is evidence that the need for coal has been overestimated throughout the world.
The new report used satellite imagery, publicly available information, and reports from private firms. They said 65GW of new coal capacity had started construction in 2016, down from 170GW in 2015.
Beijing energy analyst Lauri Myllyvirta, the report’s author, said government policy promoting clean energy was responsible for the changes in China. Last weekend, Beijing closed its last large coal plant as part of efforts to improve the city’s air quality.
Accoding to Paul Massara, CEO of North Star Solar:
“The decline in new coal plants in Asian countries is truly dramatic, and shows how a perfect storm of factors are simply making coal a bad investment.”
64GW of capacity was closed last year, mostly in the US and EU. Though US president Donald Trump has said he plans to boost America’s coal industry, announcing an upcoming executive order on Monday, environmental advocates and energy analysts have said it is unlikely White House policies will be able to stop the decline of coal.
Senior campaigner at the Sierra Club, Nicole Ghio, said “Markets are demanding clean energy, and no amount of rhetoric from Donald Trump will be able to stop the fall of coal in the US and across the globe.”
Coal industry spokespeople denied that use of the fossil fuel is in decline, and the report showed 570 coal projects in pre-construction.
According to Benjamin Sporton, chief of the World Coal Association:
“Yes, China, is reducing the number of coal-stations but not because it’s transitioning away from coal, instead the new dynamics is a signal of a more developed economy. Contrary to the picture being portrayed by certain quarters, China’s climate pledge suggests that coal will continue to be central to its energy solutions albeit through efficiencies including the use of new coal technologies.”