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New Global Assessment Reveals Nearly 1,200 Proposed Coal-Fired Power Plants

Coal-fired power plants are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions—one that could be increasing significantly globally, according to new analysis from the World Resources Institute.

Several months ago, WRI began compiling and analyzing information about proposed new coal-fired plants in order to assess potential future risks to the global climate. We released our findings today in the Global Coal Risk Assessment working paper. Our research shows that 1,199 new coal-fired plants with a total installed capacity of 1,401,268 megawatts (MW) are being proposed globally. If all of these projects are built, it would add new coal power capacity that is almost four times the current capacity of all coal-fired plants in the United States.

View the locations of proposed coal-fired power plants by country in our interactive map below.

Coal in the Developing World

Our analysis finds that 483 power companies have proposed new coal-fired plants across 59 countries. Most of these proposed plants are in developing nations—mainly China and India. These two countries account for 76 percent of the proposed new coal power capacity. New coal-fired plants are also proposed in some developing countries where there’s currently limited or no domestic coal production, such as Cambodia and Senegal. The United States ranks seventh out of all countries, with 36 proposed plants with a capacity of more than 20,000 MW.

Not all of these projects will necessarily be approved and developed—the report only looks at proposed new plants. However, this research shows a significant—and troubling—interest in coal development globally.

A Crucial Decade for Energy Choices

Energy is a universal need, and new energy development is critical in the developing world in order to lift people out of poverty and empower them to enjoy a higher quality of life. However, the choice of energy sources is a tough one, as developing countries must seek low-cost options. Coal-fired plants are often considered such an option, even though strong evidence of coal’s toll on the climate, environment, and human health suggests otherwise.

Take China: The country created an economic miracle by relying on coal as its primary energy source. However, China has been paying a huge price for its coal dependence in the form of increasing public health concerns, deteriorating ecosystems, poor air quality, more carbon pollution, and growing social tensions. While the Chinese government announced a target to cap coal consumption at 3.9 billion tons by 2015 and introduced ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy policies, the country still has a long way to go to wean itself off coal.

Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its annual World Energy Outlook, finding that coal demand could rise by 21 percent by 2035. The IEA points out that the future of coal depends largely on policy decisions as well as the price of other energy sources, including natural gas.

Fortunately, cleaner energy technologies are becoming increasingly competitive and easily accessible. Many developing countries have come to understand the importance of cleaner energy sources for the long-term sustainability of their development and have put policies in place to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy. For example, a significant portion of India’s new installed power generation capacity will come from renewable energy sources in order to meet its national target of 15 percent renewable energy by 2020.

The next decade will be crucial for countries—especially developing nations—to make the right energy choices. We hope this working paper can inspire discussions around what should be done to avoid planetary risks while ensuring economic growth.


In the absence of evidence proving the case against CO2 (as a pollutant & the primary driver of so called 'global warming'), I'm bound to wonder why does it come as a surprise to the author, Ailun Yang, that there are more 'clean' coal fired power stations (fitted nowadays with latest technology 'scrubbers') being planned/constructed nowadays than ever before!

18 years & counting of no global warming, the Alarmist scare tactics against rising CO2 levels has been lost.

The construction of more coal fired power stations globally will help bring marked improvements in the well being of the poor & impoverished!

Couldn't agree more Jim - I don't know of any serious air quality complaints relating to modern coal fired power stations.

Regarding the above comments, it is true that modern coal-fired plants can reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and carbon particulates dramatically, if they are fitted with alkaline scrubbing units and electrostatic precipitators. However, it remains to be seen whether countries like China and India are willing to spend the extra money on such things. If not, they will add to an already abysmal air quality in their large cities.

This of course is besides the point that regardless of how "clean" a coal-fired plant is, it cannot reduce carbon dioxide output. Jim's head-in-the-sand argument of "no global warming" is incorrect. It isn't global warming, it's climate change. Perhaps Jim lives in the north-eastern US which has seen severe winters. But he is ignoring the fact that sea levels are rising, ice caps in the poles and on land around the world are melting and weather events like monsoons are becoming more severe and unpredictable. Even if this is rather circumstantial, it is simply naive and stupid to think human activity changing the composition of the atmosphere will have no effect whatsoever on the climate. So why take the risk? Short-term thinking will have awful consequences in the long term.

Rafael, China and India aren't stopping coalfired power, they're only moving away from it... very slowly.

So, for another 100 years they will be using and building new coalfired power plants... 1200 in the works right now.

How is anything that the USA does going to slow down CO2 emissions?

Rafael, one big question. Do you think people can control the climate? Historically the Earth has had warming trends, known high CO2 and then an Ice Age, small, moderate, or large.
But what else was stated, was that many other countries do not use clean technology, and If the U.S. one of a few doing anything, it is like pissing into the wind except until we find a good replacement(and wind isn't it) all we are doing is destroying our economy, electrical infrastructure, and jobs.

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