Global coal capacity shrinks in first half of 2020 for the first time on record

Global coal capacity shrinks in first half of 2020 for the first time on record
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The world’s capacity to produce energy from coal declined during the first half of 2020, the first time this has happened on record, according to new data. 

The data, from the group Global Energy Monitor, showed that global coal-fired capacity decreased by more than 2.9 gigawatts from January to July as some plants closed across the world. 

This makes up just a small fraction of the world’s overall capacity from coal-fired power plants, as, according to the group’s data, currently operating coal plants across the globe have a capacity of 2047 gigawatts. 


Coal plant capacity declined in several countries, including the U.S., but increased in other places, like China. 

Christine Shearer, Global Energy Monitor’s coal program director, wrote in a post on the findings that the loss of coal capacity was because of slower commissioning linked to the coronavirus pandemic as well as “record retirements” in the European Union due to tighter regulations. 

Shearer added that even though there was a slight decline in coal, greater declines are needed to prevent climate change. 

“Despite the decline in the global coal fleet, meeting global climate goals requires a much more rapid reduction in coal power use, with generation falling by at least half this decade in pathways that limit warming to well-below 2C, and up to three-fourths for 1.5C,” she wrote. 

Burning coal emits more carbon dioxide than burning other fuels like natural gas or gasoline.

In the U.S., many coal plants shuttered in recent years. A study published in January found that between 2005 and 2016, 334 coal-fired units were shut down.

In 2019, renewable energy consumption in the U.S. topped coal consumption for the first time in more than 130 years.