Now we know why there’s such a big push by U.S. coal companies to get in on the export coal gravy train, especially on the West Coast. A World Resources Institute analysis has found that there are nearly 1,200 proposed coal plant projects around the globe, with most targeted for the Pacific market in China and India.
If those all go on online, it will add new installed capacity of 1.4 million megawatts, almost four times the current capacity of all the coal-fired plants in the U.S.
The 76-page WRI Working Paper, “Global Coal Risk Assessment: Data Analysis and Market Research,” says 483 power companies are planning 1,199 new coal-fired plants across 59 countries.
There’s a good chance that most of those projects will be built, because governments and financial institutions are eager to pony up big bucks for coal. According to the report, since 1994, multilateral development banks (MDBs) and industrialized countries’ export credit agencies (ECAs) have helped finance 88 new and expanded coal plants in developing countries, as well as projects in Europe. Together, MDBs and ECAs have provided more than $37 billion in direct and indirect financial support for new coal-fired power plants worldwide. The World Bank also has increased lending for fossil fuel projects and coal plants in recent years.
The globe’s largest commercial banks are no pikers either when it comes to helping finance dirty air, despite their blue-sky climate speak. The largest U.S. banks might not want to lend you any money to start a business or build a house, but they are highly engaged in the coal industry.
Between 2005 and 2011, the top five commercial banks involved in financing coal were JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Barclays, and they all did so to the tune of more than $86 billion. Further down the list, but still in the top 20, were Goldman Sachs ($8.8 billion) and Wells Fargo ($5.9 billion).
Here are some key bullet points from the WRI report:
- According to International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates, global coal consumption reached 7.24 billion tons in 2010. China accounted for 46 percent of consumption, followed by the United States (13 percent), and India (9 percent).
- The 1,199 proposed projects are spread across 59 countries, with China (363 proposed plants) and India (455 plants) accounting for 76 percent of the proposed new coal power capacities.
- New coal-fired plants have been proposed in 10 developing countries: Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Laos, Morocco, Namibia, Oman, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan. Currently, there is limited or no capacity for domestic coal production in any of these countries.
- The “Big Five” Chinese power companies (Datang, Huaneng, Guodian, Huadian, and China Power Investment) are the world’s biggest coal-fired power producers, and are among the top developers of proposed new coal-fired plants.
- State-owned power companies play a dominant role in proposing new coal-fired plant projects in China, Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa, Czech Republic and many other countries.
- Chinese, German, and Indian power companies are increasingly active in transnational coal-fired project development.
- According to IEA estimates, the global coal trade rose by 13.4 percent in 2010, reaching nearly 1.1 billion tons.
- The demands of the global coal trade have shifted from the Atlantic market (driven by Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the United States) to the Pacific market (driven by Japan, China, South Korea, India and Taiwan). In response to this trend, many new infrastructure development projects have been proposed.
- Motivated by the growing Pacific market, Australia is proposing to increase new mine and new port capacity up to 900 million tons per annum — three times its current coal export capacity.
Check out the WRI’s interactive map of proposed coal-fired plants by installed capacity for a depressing and dangerous dose of reality.
So while new coal-fired plant construction has slowed somewhat and is under increasing fire in the U.S., the rest of the world is poised to go all-in with a dirty coal future. The IEA recently released its annual World Energy Outlook, concluding that coal demand could rise by 21 percent by 2035.
Calling this merely a risk is an understatement. The insatiable global need for low-cost energy from coal comes at high costs to the climate, environment and human health that banks, ECAs and MDBs don’t factor into their investment equations.
[Image: Drax by Jono Brennan via Flickr CC]