Coal power is in a “death spiral” in the European Union, with 54 percent of its coal plants losing money, according to a new report published Friday.
Ninety-seven percent of the EU’s 619 coal plants will be losing money by 2030, according to the analysis from U.K. nonprofit Carbon Tracker, which looked at the profitability of every coal plant.
Under current phase-out plans, only 27 percent of operating coal plants in the EU are due to close by 2030. The report suggests that by phasing out coal power entirely by 2030 to keep its climate pledges under the Paris agreement, the EU could also avoid €22 billion ($26 billion) in losses.
Germany has the highest number of unprofitable plants. The report calculates it could save up to €12 billion ($14 billion) by closing them early.
While Europe is still heavily reliant on coal ― it accounts for a quarter of all electricity production ― the report points to several factors that undermine the economic case for coal power, including falling renewable energy prices, rising carbon prices and government policies aimed at tackling air pollution.
“Utilities can’t do much to stop this other than drop coal or lobby governments and hope they will bail them out,” said Matt Grey, co-author of the report and an analyst at Carbon Tracker.
Seven European countries have already committed to ending coal power by 2030 ― Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the U.K.
But it’s not just a European phenomenon. More than 20 countries, including Canada and New Zealand, committed to phasing out coal at the United Nations climate meeting in Germany in November.
Research from Greenpeace International this October found that more than 25 percent of the 1,675 companies that have owned or developed coal-fired power capacity since 2010 have left the coal business. Most of them were based in India, followed by China and the U.S.
Despite President Donald Trump’s pro-coal rhetoric – including his plans to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which aimed to limit power plant emissions – coal is slumping in the U.S. Around 30 gigawatts of coal capacity has been retired and coal power generation has declined by 13 percent in the U.S. over the last three years, according to a September report from Carbon Tracker.
“The coal industry is on its way out because it is too expensive and too deadly,” Melinda Piece, legislative director of the Sierra Group, told HuffPost. “And that’s true no matter what Trump says or does. ... Trump should focus on ensuring coal workers have good-paying, family-sustaining jobs in the clean energy economy, not lying to them about a revival that won’t come.”
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