Coal, Emissions, New Projects

Reports vary on direction of coal-fired capacity in Asia

Southeast Asia is often seen as the last thriving bastion for coal-fired generation capacity, but a new report by Global Energy Monitor indicates that new power plant construction has dramatically slowed in the region.

In fact, Indonesia was the only nation to start new coal-fired construction in the first half of 2019, according to GEM’s latest report. Several coal-fired projects have been announced in Asia, from Indonesia to India and Bangladesh.

New coal-fired capacity is unheard of in the U.S. and Europe, but a project pipeline has persisted and even flourished in southeast Asia. New starts peaked at 12,920 MW in 2016.

Since then, however, the GEM found that the total fell to 1,500 MW entering the construction phase in this year’s first six months, a 3,000-MW annual pace that would be only half as much as what began two years ago.

Coal plant capacity in pre-construction phases also has dropped precipitously in southeast Asia, according GEM. Those early-stage projects dropped by half from 110,367 MW in mid-2015 to 53,510 at the latest measuring point.

 “Coal power is facing something of a perfect storm,” said Christine Shearer, Director of GEM’s Coal Program. “Communities are rejecting it due to the high levels of pollution, renewable energy technology is undercutting it in terms of quality and cost, and financial institutions are backing away fast, making funding an increasing challenge for coal proponents.”

Other reports cited by GEM show coal-fired investment collapsing in India and other Asian nations. Vietnam is expanding its solar capacity and is encouraging liquified natural gas projects.

Recent Power Engineering articles, however, show coal-fired capacity going operational in the Philippines, India and Indonesia in the near future. Those projects comprise more than 3,000 MW in new generation.

A story on the QuartzIndia website earlier this year cited India Ratings and Research figures showing that nation importing up to 73 million metric tons of coal in the current fiscal year ending March 2020.

If the current pace of coal imports holds sway, the growth would be about 19 percent year over year, the highest annual rise in five years, according to the story.

Global Energy Monitor was launched under the name CoalSwarm in early 2008 and later that year was accepted as a project of Earth Island Institute. It is based in San Francisco.