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New Coal Power Projects Declining In India?

March 30, 2019
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By Paul Homewood

 Infographic: New Coal Power Projects Are Declining Globally | Statista

https://www.statista.com/chart/17519/pre-construction-coal-power-capacity-in-development-worldwide/

Back to that claim that “new coal power projects are declining globally”. As promised, a look at India (and hopefully I’ll not confuse my MWs with my GWs!).

According to Statista:

In India, the trend is similar with pre-construction declining from 218 GW in 2015 to 36 GW in 2018, a fall of 83 percent.

 

But does this mean the beginning of the end for coal in India?

To understand, we need to look at the recent history of permits, as presented in the Boom and Bust 2019 report, which lies behind Statista’s claim:

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https://endcoal.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/BoomAndBust_2019_r6.pdf

In short, far too much capacity was being built and in the pipeline, because of excess permitting a decade ago. Naturally the government has had to rein back, and once existing projects are finished there will be little more built for the next few years, as there will be sufficient capacity with what is in the system already.

This has been well known about for a long while, and I posted reports on the situation here and here.

 

However, this does not mean that coal generation will not increase in the next decade.

As at March 2017, India had coal power capacity of 192 GW, according to the National Electricity Plan of January 2018:

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 https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/nep_jan_2018.pdf

The Boom and Bust report tells us that this capacity has already increased to 221 GW, with another 36 GW in construction, making a total of 257 GW, an increase of 34% over 2017:

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 https://endcoal.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/BoomAndBust_2019_r6.pdf

The NEP also targets a coal fired capacity of 238 GW by 2026/27:

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There will of course be some closure of older plants, so at least some of the 57 GW in pre-construction will need to be brought forward too.

Either way, India’s plan is to have much more coal capacity by 2026/27 than it does now, even if construction slows down.

Beyond 2027 is anybody’s guess. But independent experts reckon that India will need to increase coal power capacity to 440 GW by 2040, in order to meet growing energy demands.

Coal Power Retirements

The report also engendered much excitement about decommissioning of older coal plants:

 image

According to Statista:

The United States leads the way in decommissioning older coal plants with retired capacity in 2018 totalling 17.6 GW. That’s the second highest year on record after 2015 when 21 GW was taken out of service. 50.2 GW of new coal capacity was commissioned globally in 2018 while retirements totalled 31 GW.

 Anybody expecting that retirements will start outstripping new builds soon will be severely disappointed however.

As we know, the UK has already shut many coal plants, and the ones left are generating very little power. Other EU nations are following suit, so there will soon be little scope for further retirements.

Meanwhile Germany and several eastern European countries, such as Poland have no intention of moving away from coal for many years to come.

In the US, coal power generation has fallen by 39% in the last decade, principally due to low gas prices. It now only accounts for 13% of global coal generation.

Worldwide, there is 574 GW of coal power in the pipeline, including 281 GW outside of China and India. Whatever the US and EU do will scarcely make a dent in that lot.

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8 Comments
  1. John F. Hultquist permalink
    March 31, 2019 5:30 am

    Thanks Paul – – good work.

    I find it interesting that when the USA was first getting electrical power the facilities were small by today’s standards. For example, many towns has a gristmill, or 2 or 3. These used water in a stream or diverted into a short canal. Thus, the concept of power was understood.
    Once the concept of electric power was proven, it became an important and significant step for the locals to build a power plant. A small town and a few thousand folks were on these small grids. Private entrepreneurial action, capital, and the rule of law was necessary.
    The provision of electricity to most areas became a national issue and resulted in creating the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in 1935.
    Today, electrification seems to require a national effort from the get-go.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      April 1, 2019 1:59 pm

      So, John, once government got involved it all went south. What a surprise.

  2. March 31, 2019 11:16 am

    So their decline is only a reduction in the *rate* of increase, a bit like a car driver lifting off the accelerator.

  3. jack broughton permalink
    March 31, 2019 12:12 pm

    A similar overshoot of capacity build occurred in the UK and USA after the war.
    The UK went from about 12.3 GW capacity in 1945 to about 70 GW in 1970 after which only Drax was built. This overshoot led to the demise of many UK power equipment factories. By 1970 the UK had a fleet of power stations that could not only easily deliver more than the peak demand, but held stored fuel that could cope with any situation (eg Thatcher’s defeat of the miners). Very little new power capacity was needed, or installed, until the subsidy-fest led to massive wind and solar growth.

    Now we have about 80 GW capacity, a lot of which is only deliverable when the gods smile upon us, and the deliverable capacity is without significant storage. Our only significant stored energy is at the few remaining coal fired power stations as the gas storage has been reduced to the level where real security risks exist. The UK is closer than it has been since the people were given electricity to rolling power cuts of the type experienced in the developing world.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      April 1, 2019 2:04 pm

      Don’t forget the ‘Dash for Gas’ policy which was to make our generation union-proof by removing the miners and the railworkers. Sadly a necessary policy but not a wise use of our gas reserves when coal was available. I used to know where my power came from but now Croydon powerstation is IKEA and all other London plants have closed.

  4. April 1, 2019 11:54 am

    “Meanwhile Germany and …have no intention of moving away from coal for many years to come.”
    Germany just announced its ending of coal. By 2038 and people are pushing to bring this earlier. In the meantime renewable energy increases every year in Germany.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/26/germany-agrees-to-end-reliance-on-coal-stations-by-2038

    • April 1, 2019 2:28 pm

      Yes, precisely. They’re keeping coal for at least another 20 yrs!

      And it may be put back even further, according to the Grauniad

      Meanwhile, Germany is ever more reliant on Russian gas, which they will use even more when coal goes to back up intermittent renewables

      • jack broughton permalink
        April 2, 2019 10:04 am

        Germany squandered a small fortune on the Energiewende policy, but had the sense to keep a solid low cost base available. As you say, 2038 is a long way off and much can alter! The UK has committed to the suicidal policy of continual carbon reduction irrespective of cost and social effects. I’d rather rely on Russian gas than the wind.

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