Coal-fired power generation on track for record reduction in 2019

Coal-fired power generation around the world is on track for a record reduction in 2019, according to new research by Carbon Brief.

It shows that electricity produced by coal is set to have fallen by 3% this year, a saving of around 300TWh. This is the equivalent of the coal output from Germany, Spain and the UK in 2018.

Around the world there have been huge drops in usage, including in the US, China and India.

In Europe, countries have been increasingly turning their backs on the heavily polluting power source. Germany in particular has seen record drops in coal power output, seeing a 22% year-on-year reduction. In Ireland, coal use fell by 79% in the first half of the year compared to 2018.

In the UK, the last coal fired power station is on track to be decommissioned by 2025.

There have been a number of milestones in the UK in 2019, including the country’s power sector running without coal for two weeks in May for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

In the three months to June 2019, coal contributed just 0.6% of the UK’s power demand and renewables made up a larger percentage of electricity generation than fossil fuels did for the first time in Q3.

China’s generation from coal has flatlined in recent years, as the country increasingly focuses on renewables. In India too, there has been a shift in support for coal power. The country is on track to see the first decline in output from the fossil fuel for three decades.

Coal usage is still increasing in South East Asian countries, but the large drops in China, India and the US were sufficient to counteract these. This is one of only three years since 1986 when there has been a decline in output. In 2009, there was a reduction of 148TWh and and in 2015 it fell by 217TWh.

While this drop in coal power is a significant step towards decarbonisation, carbon emissions from coal still remain too high for the world to meet the Paris Climate Agreement decarbonisation targets. The reduction in the use of coal for electricity generation must form a key part of reducing emissions, in order to reduce the effects of climate change.

A 3% increase in CO2 emissions from coal-fired power in 2018 was responsible for a 50% increase in emissions from fossil fuels. As such, a 3% decrease in 2019 could imply zero growth in 2019,the report suggested.

Carbon Brief looked at coal usage globally over the first ten months of 2019 in order to produce the data. Statistics were taken from from national statistical offices and from the IEA for OECD countries.

Uncertainty ranges were then set for the countries in order to predict usage over the last two months of the year, based on statistics from previous years.