It’s an open secret: we will have to do without coal to enter into the nails of the Paris agreement and achieve the objectives of carbon neutrality in 2050. The annual report of the American NGO Global Energy Monitor, published on Tuesday 26 April, reports global capacity in 2021.
The economic rebound has however been accompanied by an increased use of coal: the electricity produced from this fossil fuel has increased by 9% worldwide. China is leading the way. Its power plants operated at full capacity, with an increase in production for the sixth consecutive year. In 2021, the country also installed more than half of the new power plants in the world, compensating for closed capacities elsewhere, mainly in Europe (48% of closures).
China is “the glaring exception to the current decline in power plant development”, points out the report. The 25.2 GW under construction or planned, a high point since 2016, represents 56% of new coal-fired power plants in the world. “Additions (of capacities) planned by China to 2025 and beyond remain a stark contradiction” with climate goals, the authors note.
The OECD good student
The COP26, which was held in Glasgow last year, however bodes well, since now nearly a third of the 2,400 power plants in the world now have a closure date announced. “2021 sees an accelerating collapse of coal projects outside of China. » The total number of projects fell by 13%, while 65 countries announced that they would no longer open new power plants.
The 38 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are good students: only six of them still have coal projects. But the United States, with the world’s third largest capacity, is lagging behind on its carbon neutrality targets.
“Only about half capacity (…) is currently scheduled for a shutdown before 2035”states the report, considering that the achievement of the objectives requires a “acceleration”. According to him, if the Americans and the Germans closed their coal-fired power plants by 2030, this would make it possible, in addition to the commitments made elsewhere, to eliminate 22% of the world’s capacity.
Fewer new projects
Even outside the OECD, the trend is reversing. South Asia and South-East Asia (excluding China) now represent 65% of projects: the use of coal is still increasing there, but new projects are falling sharply.
The study of the locomotives of the zone makes it possible to be convinced of this. Indonesia increased its production by 9% in 2021 against 54% over six years! Large capacities are currently under construction, but the national electricity company has announced that it will end new projects from 2023. Ditto for India. The country has increased its capacity by 20% between 2015 and 2021 while reducing the number of projects by 90% over the period.
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This is, however, a grossly insufficient effort, says Global Energy Monitor, which projects global coal consumption of 2,200 GW in 2030 – “if all the commitments of the Glasgow agreement are kept” –, or 8% less than currently. We would have to go twice as fast to stay on the trajectory limiting climate change to 1.5°C, enacted by the Paris agreement.