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Key Findings

After decades of near-uninterrupted growth, our analysis suggests global electricity production from coal is on track for a record fall in 2019.

In the past three and a half decades, only two other years have seen declining coal power output: a fall of 148TWh in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis; and a 217TWh cut in 2015 following a slowdown in China.

The reasons for the historic projected drop in coal-fired generation in 2019 vary from country to country, but include increased electricity generation from renewables, nuclear and gas, as well as slowing or negative power demand growth.

Executive Summary

Global electricity production from coal is on track to fall by around 3% in 2019, the largest drop on record.

This would amount to a reduction of around 300 terawatt hours (TWh), more than the combined total output from coal in Germany, Spain and the UK last year.

The analysis is based on monthly electricity sector data from around the world for the first seven to 10 months of the year, depending on data availability in each country.

The projected record is due to:

  • Record falls in developed countries, including Germany, the EU overall and South Korea, which are not being matched by increases elsewhere. The largest absolute reduction is taking place in the US, as numerous large coalfired power plants close.
  • A sharp turnaround in India, where on-grid coal power output is on track to fall for the first time in at least three decades.
  • A flattening of generation growth in China.

The main counteracting force is from continuing increases in coal generation in south-east Asia, but demand from these countries is still small relative to the global total.

The global decline means an economic hit for coal plants.

The global decline means an economic hit for coal plants due to reduced average running hours, which are set to reach an all-time low.

The record drop also raises the prospect of slowing global CO2 emissions growth in 2019. Nevertheless, global coal use and emissions remain far higher than the level required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Press release: IEEFA update: Global coal power set for record fall in 2019

Please view full report PDF for references and sources.

Tim Buckley

Former Director Energy Finance Studies, Australasia, Tim Buckley has 25 years of financial markets experience, specializing in equity valuation, including as a top-rated analyst and as co-founder and managing director of Arkx Investment Management.

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Dave Jones

Dave Jones is the lead author of the “2020 Global Electricity Review”. He has been an electricity analyst for 20 years and is now working as a coal-to-clean analyst at Ember, an independent climate think-tank focused on accelerating the global electricity transition.

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