Global coal-fired utility gains offset US-EU cuts - study

02 April 2009 23:31  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Global construction of coal-fired power plants over the next ten years will add 3bn tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere, wiping out emissions cuts planned by the US and the EU, a consulting firm said on Thursday.

The McIlvaine Co said its study of utility projects worldwide indicates that coal-fired electric power capacity will grow from 1.759m megawatts (MW) in 2010 to 2.384m MW by 2020.

That increase will add 625,000 MW of new coal-fired electric capacity. McIlvaine said that another 80,000 MW of new coal-burning electric generation will be added as well, but this capacity will be built to replace older units being taken out of service.

“Coal-fired power in Asia will rise to 1.464m MW in 2020, up from 918,000 MW this year,” McIlvaine said. The additional 546,000 MW in coal-based capacity would represent an increase of 59% over the decade.

The coal-fired power additions in Asia alone will account for an increase in CO2 emissions of 2.6bn tonnes, said company president Bob McIlvaine.

“So even if the US and Europe were to cut CO2 emissions by far more than the targeted 20%, the total CO2 increase from Asia will offset it by a wide margin,” he said.

The US Congress is considering a cap-and-trade emissions reduction mandate that would cut the nation’s CO2 levels to 14% below 2005 levels by 2020 or roughly 20% below current volumes.

In addition to the 59% increase in Asian coal-burning power capacity, India will boost its coal-fired generation by 200% over the same ten years, he said, growing from 95,000 MW in 2010 to 294,000 MW in 2020.

McIlvaine said that many of the new coal-fired plants in China are highly efficient, but the Asian giant’s CO2 emissions will nonetheless exceed those of the US by a wide margin. Coal is still burned in Chinese residential boilers as well as in commercial plants and electric utilities, he noted.

Both China and India have abundant domestic coal resources, McIlvaine said, and other Asian countries have access to coal from Australia and other regional sources.

Coal will continue to be the principle electric generating fuel for Asia and India, he said, because the cost of coal-fired power is very low compared to alternatives in the near term.

“Since planning for new coal-fired power plants occurs as much as a decade in advance, there is not likely to be a major change in the forecast through 2020,” McIlvaine said.

The complete study, “Coal-fired Boilers; World Analysis and Forecast,” is available from the McIlvaine Co website.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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