November 30, 2018 Read More →

Report paints dire picture of coal generation economics worldwide

Greentech Media:

The uphill battle confronting coal seems to be getting steeper.

A new global analysis of 6,685 coal plants finds that its now cheaper to build new renewable generation than to run 35 percent of coal plants worldwide. By 2030, that percentage increases dramatically, with renewables beating out 96 percent of today’s existing and planned coal-fired generation. The 4 percent exception is in markets with extremely low fuel costs, where coal is cheap and plentiful, or with uncertain policies for renewables, like Russia.

The study, conducted by pro-climate action financial think tank Carbon Tracker, covers about 95 percent of worldwide operating capacity and about 90 percent of under construction capacity.

The report’s authors lay out three inflection points for the transition away from coal-fired power. They forecast the first for 2025, when renewables economically beat out new-build coal. According to the report, countries including Australia, China, and India are already there. But the second inflection point, when new renewables and gas beat existing coal, will mean “existential crisis” for the coal industry, according to authors. In many parts of the world, that reckoning has arrived.

This year the Netherlands announced a coal ban. Countries including China, Hungary and Germany have also made moves to ditch coal, whether by reducing consumption or considering and instituting full-blown bans. And a November report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis forecasted that 2018 will bring a record number of U.S. coal retirements totaling 15.4 gigawatts (an S&P analysis from later in the month reported that 2018 will narrowly miss the record, retiring 14.3 gigawatts compared to the previous 2015 record of 14.7 gigawatts).

According to Carbon Tracker, in China it’ll be more expensive to operate coal than to build new renewables by 2021. The European Union hits that point earlier, in 2019. In the U.S. it’s already arrived.

More: Renewables may prove cheaper than 96% of coal plants worldwide by 2030

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