In a step towards a cleaner environment, the number of coal-based fired power plants under development have seen a steep decline, especially in India and China, a report said on Thursday.
The report, however, warns that despite a global coal phase-out trend in new coal plants, emissions from operational plants will still keep the 2015 Paris climate agreement goals at bay.
The landmark Paris climate agreement aims at reducing global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In India, the economic pressure and retreat from coal financing by private capital are hailed as reasons that about 16 GW of India’s operating coal plants currently lack a power purchase agreement, the report said.
“At 17 sites, the coal plant construction in India is frozen primarily due to a lack of financing,” said the report “Boom and Bust 2018: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline”, released on Thursday by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and CoalSwarm.
For China, the world’s second largest emitter, the report credits tightening restrictions on new coal plant projects by Chinese central authorities as the reason for the continued decline in coal expansion.
Currently, India has an installed power capacity of 334.44 GW, of which 214.91 GW is from coal, 62.8 GW from renewable (solar, wind and small hydro), 44 GW from major hydro projects and 25 GW from gas-based power plants. However, the power generation is much less than the installed capacity.
In 2017, India’s peak power demand was 167 GW.
According to the report, as on January 2018, India has about 87.73 GW of coal-fired power plants under planning and about 43.62 GW under construction. Of this, about 82.35 GW has been stalled.
Referring to the report, senior Greenpeace India campaigner Sunil Dahiya advocates the replacement of expensive and polluting coal-fired power plants in India with cheaper renewable energy.
“It’s now widely accepted that the new coal power plants are not financially competitive with new renewables in India. Our analysis shows that significant cost savings can accrue to the country and cash-strapped discoms through a planned phase-out of the most expensive coal power plants already in operation and their replacement with cheaper renewable energy,” said Dahiya.
In 2017, only seven countries initiated new coal power construction at more than one location, of which India is one.
“From a climate and health perspective, the trend towards a declining coal power fleet is encouraging, but not happening fast enough,” said Ted Nace, Director of CoalSwarm.
In 2017, the Ministry of Power reported that 89 per cent of the existing coal plant capacity, or 166 GW, was not following sulphur dioxide emission norms. Over 300 coal plants nationwide have missed their December 7, 2017, deadline to install pollution controls.
India’s ambition to achieve 275 GW of total renewable energy by 2027, the report points out, shows that prospects for future coal power are also dimming, with no coal plants needed beyond those under construction.
Speaking of phasing-out coal-power, the report named the UK, the USA and China.
In the UK, the electricity provided by coal dropped from 45 per cent of overall generation in 2012 to just 2 per cent in 2017, the report pointed out.