Korea ranks among 10 countries going backward on coal power, report shows

Posted on : 2024-04-16 17:03 KST Modified on : 2024-04-16 17:03 KST
Global coal capacity grew by 2% last year, with China behind two-thirds of new plants
Steam rises from smokestacks at a combined cycle power plant in Korea. (Yonhap)
Steam rises from smokestacks at a combined cycle power plant in Korea. (Yonhap)

Global coal-fired power generation increased by about 2% last year, according to a new report. That’s because more new coal power plants are being brought online than are being closed down. China is the country with the largest number of new coal plants, but Korea’s coal-fired generation capacity has also continued to increase since 2021.

According to a new report titled “Boom and Bust Coal 2024,” coal-fired capacity around the world last year stood at 2,130 GW (gigawatts). That was 48.4 GW more than the previous year, which was the result of just 21.1 GW of existing capacity being shuttered even as 69.5 GW of new capacity was brought online.

The “Boom and Bust Coal” report on global trends in coal-fired power generation is published annually by Global Energy Monitor along with various environmental partners including Sierra Club and Korea-based nonprofit Solutions for Our Climate.

Two-thirds of the new capacity, amounting to 47.4 GW, consisted of newly commissioned coal plants in China. The report listed China as being one of 10 countries that are bucking the global trend by increasing coal power capacity. The others are Bangladesh, Greece, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. Notably, Korea’s coal-fired capacity had decreased until 2021 but has been on the rise since then, reaching 40.1 GW last year.

In 2021, President Moon Jae-in officially adopted a plan to phase coal out of Korea’s energy mix by 2050. But the report noted that Korea has yet to prepare a concrete phaseout plan and is not on course to meet its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement.

Under its NDCs, Korea is supposed to bring emissions down to 40% of its 2018 level (727.6 million tons) by 2030. But Korea’s 10th Basic Plan for Electricity Supply and Demand (2022–2036) assumes that 41 coal plants with a total capacity of 31.7 GW will be in operation in 2030. That’s only a 21% (8.4 GW) decrease from the current level of 40.1 GW.

In addition, two units began operation over the past two years at the Gangneung Anin coal plant and two more units will be activated at the Samcheok Blue Power plant this month.

According to the report, China began construction last year on new coal plants with a combined capacity of 70.2 GW, which was 19 times the capacity (3.6 GW) of new plants going up in the rest of the world.

“China’s recent huge increase in coal-fired power generation stands in stark contrast to global trends and puts China’s climate goals at risk. It’s important for China to tighten regulations on coal-fired generation projects and speed up the transition to renewable energy,” said Qi Qin, a China analyst for the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

By Park Ki-yong, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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