Monday 25 November 2019 10:47 am

Coal powered generation set for record fall in 2019

Global coal-fired electricity generation is on track for its biggest fall on record in 2019, with production expected to fall by around 3 per cent, according to a new report.

This is equivalent to a reduction of around 300 terrawatt hours, which is more than the combined total output from coal in the UK, Germany and Spain last year.

Read more: Renewables set to make up half of the UK’s electricity production by 2025

The fall is the result of record reductions in developed economies such as the EU, South Korea, and in the US, which has seen two of the country’s largest coal plants close this month. 

In addition, India has seen its first reduction in output in three decades, led by a 12 per cent increase in power from non-coal sources.

The report, by Carbon Brief, comes after study last week showed that China had added more than 40 gigawatts of coal production capacity over the past two years, a rate of almost one large plant every two weeks.

The rest of the world removed a combined 8 gigawatts of capacity in the same period, according to the Global Energy Monitor’s (GEM) findings.

Carbon Brief said that the new analysis was consistent with GEM’s report. Despite an overall rise in global capacity, the actual output from coal power stations is on course for a record fall this year.

Running hours are set to reach an all-time low this year, meaning that the plants are not increasing coal use but instead adding to overcapacity. 

Carbon Brief found that in 2019 the average coal plant will only have operated 54 per cent of the time, which would have led to an increase in the cost of electricity. 

Read more: Rise in Chinese coal capacity threatens 2050 climate targets

Coal power output is critical to global efforts to tackle climate change. In 2018, for example, a three per cent increase in emissions from coal-fired generation accounted for 50 per cent of the global increase in emissions from fossil fuels. 

For 2019, a three per cent reduction in power sector coal use could imply zero growth in global carbon dioxide output, if emissions changes in other sectors are the same as in 2018.