Fifty percent of coal-fired thermal power plants are closed or planned to be shut down by the end of the decade, according to data compiled by Europe Beyond Coal. Operators of the facilities are under pressure from rising prices of CO2 emission allowances, environmental regulations and the drop in costs for renewable energy production.
EDF Energy has announced it would decommission its West Burton A coal-fired thermal power plant in the United Kingdom by the end of September of next year. Europe Beyond Coal said it means 50% of such systems have been closed or are on track to be shut down by 2030 in Europe, including the Western Balkans and Turkey. The organization tracks data since 2016 and has 162 units left, though there are plans to build 36 coal plants.
“A series of factors have contributed to coal’s rapid decline in Europe. Chief among them has been the dramatic fall in the cost of solar and wind, which saw power generated by renewable energy sources eclipse that produced by all fossil fuels for the first time in the EU in 2020. Decades of intensive civil society campaigning and palpable public anger over coal’s role in the climate crisis, and health impacts caused by air pollution have played a strong role. Increasingly robust EU policies have also played their part, including the Industrial Emissions Directive, the new 55% emission reduction target, and surging Emissions Trading Scheme allowance prices,” the announcement reads.
Coal power output was cut by 60% since 2000
Output from coal-fired power plants is now at 40% of the levels measured in 2000 in the European Union and UK, compared to 38% in the United States, according to data from Beyond Coal.
There are 36 projects for coal-fired thermal power plants left in Europe including Turkey and the Western Balkans
The remaining systems are mostly located in Germany, Poland and Turkey, at roughly 70% of the capacity, while one fifth is in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Romania and the remaining 10% is active in the Western Balkans, the organization said.
After five projects for the construction of power plants that would use coal were canceled or shelved since the beginning of the year, there are 36 left. There were nine announcements or previously unannounced closures so far in 2021 and only 16 units remain without a retirement date in the countries that announced they would phase out the fossil fuel by 2030.
Coal power plant operators face growing emission costs, competition from renewable energy
As for Poland, state-controlled power producer PGE has just revealed the government may place its coal and lignite assets into a separate entity, excluding the combined heat and power or CHP plants, which it would switch to natural gas. The utility cited rising CO2 emission costs and warned the country is faced with a jump in power imports.
Turkey has recently scrapped 10% of its coal projects, with more than 3 GW in thermal power capacity
According to PGE, the split would make it easier for it to obtain financing for its renewable energy projects. Poland currently has plans to phase out coal by 2049. Turkey has recently scrapped 10% of its coal projects, with more than 3 GW in thermal power capacity, Europe Beyond Coal noted.
Of note, Coal India, the largest coal producer in the world, said it would develop solar power projects with an overall capacity of 3 GW with NLC India and compete in the government’s auctions for power purchase agreements. The company plans to keep abandoning smaller mines, after closing 82 units in the three years through March of last year.