Asia's new coal power plants plan to jeopardise climate targets: report

V Rishi Kumar Hyderabad | Updated on June 30, 2021

These proposed units would be uneconomic, and up to $150 billion could be wasted, says Carbon Tracker report

China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam are among the nations building more than 600 new coal-fired plants with a combined capacity of over 300GW.

These five Asian countries are responsible for 80 per cent of the world’s planned new coal plants, endangering Paris climate goals despite the availability of cheaper renewables, finds a new report Do Not Revive Coal from the financial think tank Carbon Tracker.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had earlier urged all new coal plants to be cancelled to address climate challenges.

The report warns that 92 per cent of these planned units will be uneconomic, and up to $150 billion could be wasted. Consumers and taxpayers will ultimately foot the bill because these countries either subsidise coal power or prop it up with a favourable market design, power purchase agreements or other forms of policy support.

Carbon Tracker’s Head of Power & Utilities, Catharina Hillenbrand Von Der Neyen, in the report, states: “These last bastions of coal power are swimming against the tide, when renewables offer a cheaper solution that supports global climate targets. Investors should steer clear of new coal projects, many of which are likely to generate negative returns from the outset.”

As well as modelling the financials of 80 per cent of planned new coal, Do Not Revive Coal evaluates the economics of 95 per cent of operating coal plants at the boiler level worldwide: over 6,000 operating units accounting for around 2,000 GW. It is the third report in Carbon Tracker’s annual Powering Down Coal series.

These five Asian countries also operate nearly three-quarters of the current global coal fleet, with 55 per cent in China and 12 per cent in India. Worldwide, $220 billion of operating coal plants are deemed at risk of becoming stranded if the world meets the Paris climate targets.

The report finds that around 80 per cent of the operating global coal fleet could be replaced with new renewables with an immediate cost saving. By 2024, new renewables will be cheaper than coal in every major region, and by 2026 almost 100 per cent of global coal capacity will be more expensive to run than building and operating new renewables.

China is the world’s largest coal power producer with 1,100 GW of operating coal capacity and a pipeline of 187 GW. India is the second-largest coal power producer with around 250 GW of operating capacity and a pipeline of 60 GW.

Catharina Neyen says: “Coal no longer makes sense financially or environmentally. Governments should now create a level playing field which allows renewables to grow at least cost, using post-COVID stimulus spending as an opportunity to lay the foundations for a sustainable energy system.”

At the corporate level, just ten companies account for around 40 per cent of the stranded project risk. Of the ten most exposed companies, seven are headquartered in India.

Published on June 30, 2021

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