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A Coal-fired power plant in Bengal

Progress on renewables stalls, but the end of coal could be in sight

There was mixed news in this year’s World Energy Investment report from the International Energy Agency. 

The not so good

In total, more money is still being invested in generating energy from fossil fuels than from renewables, although the position is improving.

In 2018 for every £1 invested in renewables, £2.84 was invested in fossil fuels. This is better than in it was in 2016, when for every £1 invested in renewables there was £3.24 invested in fossil fuels.        

Disappointingly, the report also noted an 'unexpected flattening' in additional global capacity for renewable energy last year.

This is despite the costs of solar and wind power plunging to the point that they are now often the cheapest technology for electricity generation.

The report warns that investment in low-carbon energy sources, such as wind and solar, must more than double by 2030 if the world is to meet its Paris Agreement climate goals. 

This raises the question over whether growth in renewables could begin to slow unless governments provide stable policy regimes and support for integrating renewables into the grid.

Now more than ever we need to hold the UK Government to account on the climate emergency by making sure they turn commitments into urgent action.

The good

However, the report did bring some good news regarding the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, coal.

While, the amount of coal power generated increased with a 63% rise in Asia offsetting a 40% fall in Europe and North America, critically, the number of new coal plants being approved fell dramatically.  

This dramatic decline is even more significant when compared to the rate at which old coal-fired plants are closing down. And it means more capacity will be removed from the coal power network as a result of plants closing, than will be added by new plants opening.  

According to Bloomberg, this is almost certainly the first time this has happened in a generation, and possibly the first time since the 19th century. If this trend continues, coal power will peak in 2021 and then decline, and the 140-year era of coal power will finally be over.  

Thanks to your ongoing support for our Big Shift campaign the end of coal power could be in sight!