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Coal plant development in China offset global retreat

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A steep increase 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 from Global Energy Monitor.

A record-tying 37.8 gigawatts (GW) of coal plants were retired in 2020, led by the US with 11.3 GW and EU27 with 10.1 GW, but these retirements were eclipsed by China’s 38.4 GW of new coal plants.

China commissioned 76% of the world’s new coal plants in 2020, up
from 64% in 2019, driving a 12.5 GW increase in the global coal fleet in 2020.

Credit: Global Energy Monitor

The proposal and construction boom in China began taking off in March
2020 as provinces used coal projects to stimulate their economies in the
wake of the economic slowdown from the covid-19 pandemic.

“China’s Central Environment Inspection Group issued an unprecedented report criticizing the National Energy Administration for lax enforcement of the countryʼs restrictions on coal development, suggesting China’s coal boom may soon be clamped down,” the Global Energy Monitor reported.

“In late 2021, the central government is expected to release its targets
for coal power in the energy sector plan, although the modest targets set for
non-fossil energy in the country’s 14th Five Year Plan (2021–2025) suggest
coal power generation will continue to grow through 2025.”

Outside China, several Asian countries announced that they are cancelling
or reconsidering new coal power projects, while Japan and South Korea
pledged to reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.