Global Coal Power Set a New Power Generation Record

Coal-based generation rose by 3% in 2018, the same rate as in 2017, to reach a new peak at more than 10 000 TWh. Coal generation in Asia – particularly China and India – increased significantly, but it fell elsewhere, including in the United States and Europe. It remains the largest source of electricity generation worldwide, with a share of 38%.

Coal-fired power generation in the United States continued to drop in 2018 (by 60 TWh) despite strong electricity demand growth, as 15 GW of coal capacity was retired.

Coal generation in Europe also decreased (by 20 TWh), mainly because of strong renewables-based expansion. In fact, many countries have announced coal phase-outs: Germany, the largest coal consumer in Europe, plans to be coal-free by 2038.

2018 Latest Solar and Wind Build in the USA

In 2018 EIA shows utility-scale solar and wind added 33 TWh. 20 TWh for Wind and 13 TWh for solar. $40 billion was spent on solar and wind in 2018. So $20 billion of US solar and wind spending in 2018 to get to 16.5 TWh. China and South Korea can spend $5–8 billion for a pair of reactors to generate at that level.

The US still generates 860 TWh from coal power. Replacing coal power would take about 26 years at the 2018 rate. Let us assume that solar and wind speed up to an average of double that pace. It will still be 13 years to replace coal in the US.

Coal usage is increasing worldwide. Coal is adding 250-300 TWh every year worldwide. Solar and Wind additions have to more than double to offset the coal increase worldwide.

Worldwide spending on solar and wind would need to increase to $500 billion per year for 30 years to phase out worldwide coal and prevent increased usage of coal.

Global coal emissions in 2018 were at 14.6 billion tons per year. So $15 trillion over 30 years would offset 225 billion tons of CO2 per year and then prevent 14.6 billion tons per year thereafter with additional spending on rebuilding the solar and wind as it wears out in 15 to 30 years.

This is about $75 per ton of CO2.