An estimated $638bn (£489bn) could be wasted world wide on using coal to generate electricity.
That’s according to a report released today which advises international governments to stop using coal as soon as possible.
The report by think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative says in all major electricity markets, renewables are either cheaper than new coal power generation already or will be in the coming years.
Report co-author Matt Gray, said: “Renewables are outperforming coal around the world and proposed coal investments risk becoming stranded assets which could lock in high-cost coal power for decades.”
Worldwide, 499GW of new coal power is planned or already under construction at a cost of £638bn.
Here in the UK, there is a target for the economy to become carbon neutral by 2050.
“It makes sense for governments to cancel new coal projects immediately and progressively phase out existing plants.”
Current measures at home
The price of building offshore wind farms has fallen recently in recent years meaning UK subsidies have been phased out and more projects are approved.
Last week, the government controversially allowed onshore wind farm and solar developments to be eligible for public subsidy again.
Previously, they were banned from bidding in 2016 following opposition from conservative MPs.
“The cost of renewables has become increasingly competitive due to economies of scale, said Richard Crawford, director, infrastructure, at the Renewables Infrastructure Group.
“The cost of electricity from coal however is significantly impacted by carbon taxes, which do not affect the cost of electricity generated from emission-free renewable energy.” he added.
Drax power station in North Yorkshire recently announced it will stop using coal in 2021.
Two thirds of the station’s power already comes from biomass.
The way forward around the world
The report states there is 49 GW of coal capacity either planned or under construction throughout the world whose investment cost reaches $638bn.
The report, which claims this is undercut by renewables, covers major international energy markets.
James Watson, of law firm Osborne Clark has cited the low cost and proliferation of renewables in developed countries, but urged caution elsewhere.
“… developing countries will struggle to make the switch to renewables without support from the international community to decarbonise their electricity generation and will continue to fund coal plants to meet rising demand for electricity as their economies develop,” he said.
The UK had its first full day without using coal to generate electricity since the industrial revolution in April 2017.
Internationally, experiments to reduce carbon emissions include new sources of energy such as fusion and vehicle fuels including hydrogen.