Electricity In Transition: September 2020

by | Oct 5, 2020

A round-up of some of the headline stories from the last month, telling the story of the electricity sector in transition from coal to clean.


#1 China’s carbon neutrality commitment 

On 22nd September, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China would aim for carbon neutrality by 2060 and a CO2 emissions peak before 2030, with indications that it will bring forward energy-transition targets in its 14th five-year plan which runs from 2021 to 2025. However, it remains to be seen how this will translate into action on coal. A recent analysis by CREA showed that COVID stimulus spending for fossil fuels is three times larger than low carbon. 

Also see this Carbon Brief analysis: Why would anyone finance another coal power plant in China?


#2 South Korea follows suit 

Two days after the Chinese net-zero announcement, South Korea announced that it was declaring a climate emergency and a non-binding 2050 net zero target. Earlier this month the country announced it will close half of the coal fleet and triple the number of solar and wind power installations from 2019 to 2025. This comes as legislators move closer to a ban on overseas coal financing.


#3 Poland’s coal phase-out is heating up 

Although still out of step with its EU neighbours, there is growing momentum in the Polish coal phase-out. On 8th September, Poland announced $40bn plans to push nuclear and cut its reliance on coal. 

Pressure is also mounting against Belchatow coal power plant – the EU’s biggest polluter for more than a decade. In a landmark decision on 22nd September, a District Court judge in Poland demanded the operators negotiate with Client Earth’s lawyers to accelerate the plant’s closure and find a solution within three months.

On 25th September, the Poland Government reached an agreement with trade unions that the last coal mine will be closed in 2049. Though this does effectively mean that they will continue subsidising unprofitable mines for another 30 years and it doesn’t cover all Polish mines, it is the first time a date has been mentioned. 


#4 General Electric plans coal exit

US industrial giant General Electric – one of the world’s biggest makers of coal-fired power plants – is to exit the market and focus on greener alternatives.


#5 More market signals of the clean energy transition 

  1. Global: World Bank’s IFC adopts new climate rules to deter lenders from backing coal.
  2. Germany: Swedish utility Vattenfall wants to shut down its youngest and most efficient coal-fired power plant in Germany because it is unprofitable.
  3. Japan: Sompo became the first Japanese insurance company to adopt a position on coal, stating they will not insure and invest in the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Japan. 
  4. Latin America: Inter-American Development Bank voted to exclude any more investments in coal, oil and gas extraction.
  5. Switzerland: Reinsurance giant Swiss Re decided to raise its internal carbon price to $100 per metric ton next year, gradually increasing to $200 by 2030.
  6. Tech giants: Google and Facebook pledged to become carbon neutral, following in the footsteps of Apple and Microsoft. 


Explore more

Explore Ember’s half-year analysis of the global electricity system which found that wind & solar now generate 10% of global electricity.

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