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The World’s Coal Capacity Hit an All-Time High in 2023

Global coal power capacity hit a record last year driven by China, which built the most new capacity, but also helped by a slowdown in coal power plant retirements across the world.

This is according to data from Global Energy Monitor, a transition outlet that tracks energy trends. The data also showed that coal power plant retirement has been slowing down since 2020 when total retirements globally exceeded 40 GW. In 2023, this had fallen to a little over 20 GW.

Meanwhile, China added 47 GW of new coal-powered generation capacity last year, which represented 66% of the global total in new additions. It was followed by India and Indonesia, which also added a significant amount of new coal capacity.

“Coal’s fortunes this year are an anomaly, as all signs point to reversing course from this accelerated expansion,” Global Energy Monitor’s Coal Program director, Flora Champenois said.

“But countries that have coal plants to retire need to do so more quickly, and countries that have plans for new coal plants must make sure these are never built. Otherwise, we can forget about meeting our goals in the Paris Agreement and reaping the benefits that a swift transition to clean energy will bring,” she also said in comments on the report’s findings.

This appears to be easier said than done as coal continues to provide the baseload, dispatchable sort of power that even China’s massive wind and solar fleet cannot guarantee—hence the rush to build more coal capacity.

There is also the question of the cost of coal alternatives. India’s government said last year it had plans to triple its coal production in order to be able to meet the rising energy demand of the nation.

“India is on a high-orbit growth trajectory, expanding industrially and economically,” Amrit Lal Meena, a coal ministry official, told the Financial Times last November. “Coal continues to play a key role in India’s economic growth and development.”

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By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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