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Coal Energy Generation Breaking Records—But Not the ‘Net Zero’ Ones

Global coal-fired power generation trends are off track to meet the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, which calls for annual average 9% reductions in coal-fired generation between 2022 and 2030—and a total phaseout by 2040. In fact, coal-fired generation reached a record high in 2021, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report last year, despite increased public and private sector calls to lower CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. Here is what the IEA report had to say:

Coal Energy
  1. Coal-fired power generation accounted for more than one-third of total global electricity generation in 2021.

  2. In 2021, CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants rose to a record 9.7 Gt, an increase of almost 6.6% from the prior year. 

  3. No new coal plants have been fitted with carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies. 

  4. To meet the Net Zero by 2050 Scenario, 8% annual average reductions of emissions from coal-fired power plants will be needed until 2030 and beyond.

  5. In contrast, coal-fired power generation increased by 8% in 2021, a record high, reversing a downward trend over the prior two years.

  6. Coal-fired generation grew faster in absolute terms than renewable energy for the first time since 2013. 

  7. When compared with 2020, coal-fired power plant emissions increased by about 16% in the US and by 20% in the EU.

  8. Coal-fired generation in India reached a record high, 13% above 2020 levels.

  9. In all, coal's share of total global power generation rose above 36%, far from the trend needed to achieve the Net Zero by 2050 Scenario, which seeks a reduction of around 55% by 2030.



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