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Green groups: Planned coal capacity equals nearly $1 trillion in 'wasted capital'

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Green groups: Planned coal capacity equals nearly $1 trillion in 'wasted capital'

Coal-fired power plant retirements are growing on a globalscale, led by those in the U.S. and Europe, but the retirements are nothappening quickly enough to counteract the building of coal plants in otherparts of the world, according to a new report from the Sierra Club, Greenpeaceand CoalSwarm.

Globally, 338 GW of new coal capacity is under constructionand 1,086 GW is in various stages of planning, which is equal to about 1,500coal plants and close to $1 trillion of potentially "wasted capital,"according to the report's authors.

The report,"Boom and Bust 2016: Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline,"released March 29, said levels of coal plant retirements around the world areequal to only about a fifth of the amount of new plants being built and thatthe U.S. and Europe still produce much more carbon dioxide per capita comparedto the global average.

Hundreds of coal plants are being built or developedworldwide, despite coal plant usage rates declining, with China's at less than50%, according to the report. "Falling utilization rates in coal plants —the percentage of maximum output actually achieved — are symptoms of excesscapacity and overbuilding," the report said.

Coal-fired power plants have been built in 33 countriessince 2010, but only eight countries have added more than 2,000 MW of capacity,the majority of which can be attributed to China and India, the report said.

However, renewable energy is now "cost-competitive"with new coal capacity in most regions, according to the report.Wind and solar photovoltaic power now surpass coal power installations globallydue to falling costs, the report said. Global wind power installations in 2015came in at 63 GW and solar PV at 59 GW and only 84 GW of new coal powercapacity was installed in 2015.

"If redirected toward wind and PV, the projected $981billion capital investment needed to implement the projects in the current coalpipeline could greatly accelerate the transition to clean energy," thereport said.

Additionally, the U.S. is rapidly moving away fromcoal-fired power plants, according to the report, which its authors predictedwill only accelerate. In 2015, coal plants supplied 33% of the overall electricpower in the country, down from 50% only 10 years earlier, and the amount ofcoal mined in the U.S. reached the lowest levels in nearly 30 years, the reportsaid.

The finalization of federal regulations on carbon emissionsfrom power plants was "one of the biggest developments in 2015,"according to the report's authors.

Despite the stay of the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan recentlyissued by the U.S. Supreme Court, states will still have plenty of time to meetthe 2022 compliance deadline, the authors said. Thereport also predicted that the court's action on the Clean Power Plan would not"revive the coal industry or slow clean energy" because of grassrootsadvocacy, market trends and federal and state policies.

The final version of the rule, in August 2015 and administeredunder Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, established statewide carbon dioxideemission standards for existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating unitswith the goal of cutting CO2 emissions 32% as measured from a 2005 baseline by2030.

A large number of states in January signed a for the U.S. SupremeCourt to halt the EPA's rule while it is being litigated, after a federalappeals court refused to do so. The high court on Feb. 9 the requested stay, even thougha lower court had not yet ruled on the merits of the underlying challenge tothe rule.