NEW REPORT: Global Coal Plant Development Drops For Second Consecutive Year

New Construction Down 73 percent From 2015 To 2017

Cindy Carr, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3034 or
Ted Nace, CoalSwarm, (510) 331-8743 or
Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace, +86 157 1002 1563 or


WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the second year in a row, the number of coal-fired power plants under development worldwide dropped steeply in 2017, led by major declines in China and India, according to a new report released today by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and CoalSwarm. The report, Boom and Bust 2018: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline, is the fourth annual survey of the global coal plant pipeline. Its findings include a 28 percent year-on-year drop in newly completed coal plants (41 percent in the past two years), a 29 percent year-on-year drop in construction starts (73 percent in the past two years), and a 22 percent drop in plants in permitting and planning (59 percent over the past two years).

Reasons for the continued decline in coal power expansion include tightening restrictions on new coal plant projects by Chinese central authorities and a broad retreat from coal financing by private capital in India. Coal plant construction in India is frozen at 17 sites.

The report also shows that an all-time record of 97 gigawatts (GW) of coal plants retired in the past three years, led by the U.S. (45 GW), China (16 GW) and UK (8 GW). Based on the rising trend of retirements over the past two decades, the report predicted that the global coal fleet will begin to shrink in 2022, as  retirements of old coal plants surpass new coal power capacity.

Globally, a coal phase-out campaign is gaining momentum, supported by commitments from 34 countries and subnational entities. In 2017, only seven countries initiated new coal power construction at more than one location.

Despite the decline in the new coal plant pipeline, the report warned that projected lifetime emissions from today’s existing coal plant fleet will continue to exceed the carbon budget for coal needed to meet the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In order to keep coal emissions within that budget, further building must be ended and existing plants must be retired at an accelerated pace.

“From a climate and health perspective, the trend toward a declining coal power fleet is encouraging, but not happening fast enough,” said Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm. “Fortunately, mass production is cutting solar and wind costs much faster than expected, and both financial markets and power planners worldwide are taking notice.”

"It's no surprise that the use of coal is declining worldwide," said Neha Mathew-Shah, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s International Climate and Energy Campaign. “This has been an accelerating trend over the past few years, and as the cost of clean energy solutions like wind and solar continue to outpace outdated fossil fuels, it's only a matter of time before coal is a thing of the past."

“Falling coal-fired power plant construction and accelerating retirements are excellent news for public health – pollution from coal-fired power plants is responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year globally,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, senior global campaigner at Greenpeace.  “Despite slowdown in construction, overcapacity situation continued to worsen especially in China, India and Indonesia, as new plants continue to come online.”


Note: A typical coal-fired generating unit is 500 megawatts, or 0.5 gigawatts, in size, with most power stations having two or more such units.

Read the report here.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit


About CoalSwarm

CoalSwarm is a network of researchers developing informational resources on fossil fuels and alternatives. Current projects the Global Coal Plant Tracker, the Global Fossil Projects Tracker, and the CoalWire newsletter. For more information, visit


About Greenpeace

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace is present in more than 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Pacific. For more information, visit