• World would struggle to meet climate goals if all currently planned coal-fired plants built

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Research published in Environmental Research Letters has found that, if all currently planned, under construction or announced coal-fired power plants were to be built and operated, “the carbon budget for reaching the 2 °C temperature target [under the Paris Agreement] would nearly be depleted”. While in many developed countries coal firing is declining, developing countries have significant numbers of planned and under-construction plants, and though some are also installing large amounts of renewables capacity, the added coal-fired capacity, if built, is likely to lead to extended carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions. The long lifetimes of coal-fired plants is key to the emissions – a plant built today is likely to be able to run until the 2050s or 2060s, a time when it is hoped global emissions will have reduced drastically, and it is assumed in the modelling that if built, the plants will indeed be run so long, to justify the costs of building them in the first place. Most (73%) of the planned and under-construction plants are in five countries – China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Turkey. The paper suggests that long-term energy policies should be instituted now to ensure that climate targets can be met. While the research is concerning, it does appear somewhat speculative, as there is no allowance for retrofitting with carbon capture and storage, and an assumption that all planned plants will be built, as well as that they will be operated for their entire design lives. It may be the case in the future, as some have already argued is beginning to be the case now, that it will be cheaper to install new renewable technologies than to pay the operating costs for already-built conventional power generation capacity. Industry commenters have expressed similar ideas, as the Washington Post coverage of the research shows.