Increased energy demand came from the steel and iron industries, which have produced record output in recent months. /Kevin Frayer /Unearthed

New data published by the U.S-based thinktank Global Energy Monitor (GEM) shows that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a global shift away from coal with the exception of China, which has expanded plans to build power stations using coal.

According to GEM, China has built more than half of the world’s new coal power plants this year and accounted for 90 percent of new planned capacity.

However, the monitor’s global coal plant tracker database found that the amount of coal power commissioned in China to the end of June was more than 40 percent below the same stage last year – 19.4 gigawatts compared with 11.4 gigawatts.

Also, global coal-fired generation capacity saw a net decline of 2.9 gigawatts from January to June, the first drop on record for a six-month period, thanks to plant retirements in Europe and elsewhere.

GEM’s data reveals that the closure of coal generators, mostly across Europe and in the U.S, outstripped stations being commissioned, largely in Asia.

The net decline of 2.9 gigawatts may be small, at just over 0.1 percent of the world’s coal generation capacity, but marks a turning point in the burning of the dirtiest fossil fuel to produce electricity.

South and south-east Asian nations have also curtailed plans to build plants, with Vietnam considering canceling 9.5 gigawatts of planned coal power plants and Bangladesh discussing halting 16.3 gigawatts of additional plants.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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