The biggest annual fall in the world’s use of coal-based electricity is expected this year. It will be the first fall in more than four decades of almost uninterrupted growth in the sector.
A fall of 3% is expected for 2019 according to new data. This would be more than the coal-fired electricity produced by the UK, Spain, and Germany in all of 2018 combined.
The fall is expected due to China’s demand for coal having plateaued, along with India’s use of coal falling for the first time in more than 30 years. The fall is expected to help combat the global climate crisis by reducing carbon emissions.
The rise of cleaner energy in these two nations, as well as a slowdown of economic growth in Asia, has led to less coal-based electricity being produced. Developed economies such as the US and EU are also expected to record declines in the use of coal which have yet to be seen since records began.
The world’s annual coal generation has only fallen twice in the last four decades – once in 2009 due to the global recession, and again in 2015 as a result of deadly air pollution slowing down China’s use of coal plants.
The research was carried out by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, along with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, and Sandbag – a UK-based climate thinktank.
Global Energy Monitor released a report recently showing that China is building new coal plants at five times the rate than the rest of the world is decommissioning theirs – leading to a growing number of coal-fired power plants globally.
Despite the vast amount of new coal plants being built in China, researchers found that China’s coal-fired electricity generation was declining. This is because these plants are running at very low rates.
According to the report, the equivalent of one large coal plant is built every fortnight in China. However, these plants are only utilised for 48.6% of the time – almost 6% lower than the global rate of 54%.
China increased its coal-fired power capacity by 42.9GW in the 18 months up until June of this year. The rest of the world saw an overall decrease of 8GW in the same time period.
Carbon Brief, an industry journal, published a paper in which experts said: “A 3% reduction in power sector coal use could imply zero growth in global CO2 output, if emissions changes in other sectors mirror those during 2018”.
Despite the decline in the use of coal, the authors of the report have warned that the rate is still too slow in order for the world’s coal-use to meet the Paris agreement targets in time.