Electricity from coal in biggest global fall this year

Written by

Tim Greenhalgh

Posted on

November 27, 2019

Posted in

Electricity production from coal-burning power stations looks set to drop a record amount by the end of this year.

New research reveals that coal-fired electricity should drop by 3% in 2019 and this could slow or stop the shock rise in carbon emissions that have been recorded over the past year.

The 3% fall equates to more than the coal generation of Germany, Spain and the UK last year, and contrasts to the 40 years of continual growth in coal energy production.

This welcome reduction is in larger part due to the fact that India’s reliance on coal power is falling for the first time in at least 30 years while China’s coal power demand is levelling off.

Cleaner energy

Slower economic growth in Asia along with the growth of cleaner energy alternatives is a big factor in the reduced burning of coal for energy, that has been a major factor in the rise of greenhouse cases responsible for global heating.

The study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and the UK climate thinktank Sandbag indicates that there should continue to be steep declines in coal burning in the EU and US as developed economies roll out cleaner forms of energy.

The researchers 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.”

However, the authors of the report have warned that despite the record coal power slump the world’s use of coal remained far too high to meet the climate goals of the Paris agreement.

EU energy

According to the International Energy Agency, coal energy production in the EU dropped by 42%, from 5,289 TWh to 3,057 TWh between 1990 and 2015. In contrast, coal use in the world increased by 73% over the same period.

And coal power generation in the EU has dropped by 19 per cent since the start of 2019 according to Sandbag’s data.

In the UK, there are only six active coal fired power stations with a total generating capacity of 8.9GW. The Government has ordered all coal fired power stations to cease operations by 2025.

Coal supplied just 5.4% of UK electricity last year, a reduction of nearly a third compared with 2014. And in May the UK had a first full week without any coal power.

Renewables record

Renewable UK energy sources also provided more electricity for homes and businesses than fossil fuels for the first time over the last quarter. The renewables record was set after the share of the electricity production mix rose to 40%.

It is the first time that electricity from British windfarms, solar panels and renewable biomass plants surpassed fossil fuels since the UK’s first power plant was commissioned in 1882.

The global study found that China’s coal-fired power generation is flatlining because of falling demand, and the power stations are running at record low rates. While the country builds the equivalent of one large new coal plant every two weeks, its coal plants run for only 48.6% of the time, compared with an average global rate of 54%.

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