Coal power plant construction will push ahead in Asia despite falling electricity demand and environmental concerns as policymakers prioritise boosting economies crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, analysts say.
Coal barges are pictured as they queue to be pull along Mahakam river in Samarinda, East Kalimantan province, Indonesia, August 31, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Fossil fuel demand will plummet this year as lockdowns sap electricity use, the International Energy Agency said in a report last month.
The European Union, International Monetary Fund and the United Nations have said that marks a once-in-a-generation opportunity to launch a ‘green recovery’, which includes Asia joining the global trend of ending support for coal power.
But there are already signs that China and other Asian giants like South Korea and Japan will steer recovery funds into struggling coal-focused state financers, equipment suppliers and construction firms. That could create a short-term jolt at the cost of efficiency and environmental damage, analysts say.
“China and other governments may be tempted to invest in coal power to help their economies recover after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Matt Gray, co-head of power and utilities at Carbon Tracker, a climate think tank. “This risks locking in high-cost coal power that will undermine global climate targets.”
China, which produces and consumes about half of the world’s coal, has in recent weeks said it would allow more provinces to start building coal power plants starting in 2023. It also accelerated the construction of five plants and committed billions of dollars to cross-country electricity transmission lines.