This interactive map shows us the evolution of coal consumption in the last 20 years.
Renewable energy sources generated more energy than coal for the first time in 2017 at the European level, but coal plants continue to be a reality even though many countries advocate ending them. This is what this interactive map of all coal plants existing from the year 2000 onwards.
Using data from CoalSwarm and the Global Coal Plant Tracker, the Carbon Brief portal has produced this world map in which we can see every coal plant present in the world – in one form or another – in the last two decades. From those that are planned to those that are closing, through the operational ones and those that are under construction.
Planned, under construction, operational, in retirement … all coal plants in the world from 2000 to now
And the best thing is that the location of each central is accompanied by data. The current reality of coal in front of our eyes.
China and India, the coal giants
Seeing Chinese cities filled with suspicious fog has become a frequent sight. In recent years one of the largest economies in the world has grown dramatically and that progress has been largely due to the energy generated by coal. The evolution of the plant map from 2000 to the present makes it clear. And the future even more.
The People’s Republic of China increased its capacity to produce energy from coal fivefold between 2000 and 2017. Its capacity reached 935 GW, a figure close to half of the world total. For this reason, among other reasons, China suffers so much from the effects of pollution, uses half of the coal consumed annually and is at the forefront of the planet’s CO2 emissions.
China is the world’s largest CO2 emitter due, in part, to the proliferation of coal-fired power plants
Although they are taking some measures such as closing 80,000 factories to help alleviate their unsustainable pollution problem, the reality is what we see on the map. As aptly summarized in ‘Vox’, authors also of the gif, “The greatest economic history and the greatest climate history of the 21st century are the same story: China and coal”.
Next to china is India, the country that had the second fastest rate of coal growth. Since 2000, its capacity has tripled to less than a quarter of that of the Chinese, reaching 215 GW. However, between one country and another is the United States, with more than 278 GW of generation capacity.
In India, however, the forecast for coal demand has been sharply cut due to slower growth in electricity demand and the existence of cheaper renewable sources.
Several of those GW of coal capacity, in addition, are on the verge of a possible early retirement given that revolution in terms of renewables that is taking place in the country. In fact, according to the latest National Electricity Plan of India, 48 GW of coal will soon disappear, among other reasons, due to the plans that are going to be carried out against its serious pollution problem.
European Union and United States in retreat
In the animated map that we can see on these lines we find the other side of the coin in the current situation of coal in the world: coal-fired power plants have started to disappear from European territory. In the United States, the scene repeats itself.
At the end of last January we knew, as we mentioned at the beginning, that renewables had surpassed coal for the first time in Europe according to the estimated data for 2017. The sum of wind, solar and biomass generation supplied 679 terawatt hours versus 669 for coal looking like a slim win, though not. Because just five years ago, coal was twice that of renewables.
By 2030, the United States and the European Union need to be carbon-free
The International Energy Agency, in fact, assures that global investment in coal has already peaked and right now it is in a “dramatic slowdown.” The latest CoalSwarm Global Coal Situation Report also shows a rapid slowdown in coal growth and it is believed that global capacity could peak in 2022.
In just a decade, in 2030, the United States and the European Union need to be free of this dark source of energy. In 2040, it should be the turn of China and India. Renewables must finish taking the initiative. The future looks like it will be less black and greener.
More information | The world’s coal power plants