China’s coal plant boom in 2020 outweighs US, EU record coal plant retirements – report

Coal plant

A surge in coal plant development in China offset a retreat from coal in the rest of the world in 2020, resulting in the first increase in global coal capacity development since 2015, according to a new report led by Global Energy Monitor (GEM). China accounts for 85% of the 87.4 GW of proposed new coal plants in 2020, according to the report, Boom and Bust 2021: Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline. It reported that a record-tying 37.8 GW of coal plants were retired in 2020, led by the US with 11.3 GW and EU27 with 10.1 GW.

China commissioned 38.4 GW of new coal plants in 2020, comprising 76% of the global total (50.3 GW). Outside China, 11.9 GW was commissioned and, taking into account closures, the global coal fleet outside China declined by 17.2 GW in 2020 – the third year in a row that coal power capacity outside China shrank.

Outside China, the coal plant development pipeline is collapsing in Asia, as Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia have announced plans to cut up to 62.0 GW of planned coal power. GEM estimates the policies will leave 25.2 GW of coal power capacity remaining in pre-construction planning in the four countries—an 80% decline from the 125.5 GW planned there just five years ago, in 2015.

Globally, commissioning of new plants fell to 50.3 GW in 2020, a decline of 34% from 2019, as projects in development struggled to obtain financing and many projects were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In India, coal power capacity rose by just 0.7 GW in 2020, with 2.0 GW commissioned and 1.3 GW retired.

New construction starts fell 5% from 28.3 GW in 2019 to 27.0 GW in 2020. However, outside of China, new construction starts fell by 74%, from 21.1 GW in 2019 to 5.5 GW in 2020.