The retirement of operating coal power plants must increase by four and a half times the current global pace if the world is to maintain its 1.5°C average temperature increase target set out in the Paris climate agreement, non-profit organisastion Global Energy Monitor (GEM) has found.
In its ninth annual survey of the global coal plant pipeline, GEM found that coal power retirements reached 26GW in 2022, with another 25GW expected by 2030. In non-OECD, the amount of planned coal-fired capacity fell by 23GW. However, China’s planned capacity increased by 126GW, far offsetting reductions by the rest of the world.
India’s Central Electricity Authority also announced this week its plans to move away from renewables and back towards coal. The draft of its National Electricity Plan projects an increase in the plant load factor of coal fired plants from 55% in 2027 to 62% by 2032.
Guidelines in the Paris agreement state that by 2030, all existing coal plants must be retired in OECD countries, and by 2040 global use of coal must cease. There is no room for new coal plants to come online.
Phasing out coal completely by 2040 would require an average of 117GW worth of plant retirements per year, or four and a half times the retirement capacity in 2022. An average of 60GW must come offline in OECD countries to meet their 2030 phase out deadline, with 91GW required from non-OECD countries for their 2040 deadline.
“The more new coal projects come online, the steeper the cuts and commitments need to be in the future,” said Flora Champenois, lead author of the report. “At this rate, the transition away from existing and new coal isn’t happening fast enough to avoid climate chaos.. The IPCC and the UN have both renewed the marching order to wind down coal power globally in what may be our last chance to avoid the worst of a warming planet’s harms.”
Coal capacity pipeline on the rise
The report also found that globally, the operating coal fleet grew by 19.5GW, or less than 1%, in 2022. Approximately 59% of newly commissioned coal capacity came from China, with 14 countries in total expanding their coal power.
Total coal power capacity under development has remained relatively level since 2019, after a collapse from peaks seen in 2014. In 2021 global capacity hit a record low of 479GW, but this increased last year up to 537GW.
The EU hit a record high of coal retirement in 2021, with 14.6GW going out of use. The US led national coal retirements with 13.5GW reduced capacity in 2022, compared to 2.2GW by the EU.