A research team led by the Center for Global Sustainability was recently awarded $300,000 for a new project aimed at providing policymakers with crucial information about coal-fired power plants worldwide and the implications of planned coal increases for national and global climate goals.

The Global Coal Data Track and Analysis Project will develop a data clearinghouse for information on planned and current coal plants and use this new resource to provide important scholarship on the future of energy and emissions from the coal sector.

The project will be funded by the Energy Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports energy efficiency and clean energy efforts across the globe. The project is led by Dr. Ryna Cui, a CGS affiliate, and Professor Nathan Hultman, director of CGS, and will engage several graduate students at the School of Public Policy and an additional post-doctoral researcher.

The project consists of three pieces: a series of global and country-level analyses with respect to coal market trends; a public data source made possible by collecting, tracking and providing high-quality data of coal-based power facilities worldwide; and a series of public events to share information about the results.

Cui, an alumna of the School of Public Policy and a post-doctoral researcher at the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI), noted that through the project “we will be able to assess interactions across multiple segments of the economy, for instance, impacts on air pollution, energy security, as well as other national development priorities,” adding that, “We hope our findings can effectively inform policy-making about market trends and in the meantime inform investment decisions about policy signals."

Cui has already produced scholarship on this topic and worked extensively on clean energy and climate policy. During her time as a Low-Carbon Development Research Intern at the World Resources Institute, Cui co-authored the “Global Coal Risk Assessment” a broadly cited paper that looked at worldwide trends in coal production. She believes the new project will constitute a “major contribution” to existing scholarship by providing open-source data via an integrated assessment (IA) modeling tool as well as analyzing what market trends will mean for climate-related policy goals, especially to countries’ commitments to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Hultman is the co-lead investigator for the project. He noted, “The Global Coal Track Project will bring a high quality data product and ongoing policy analysis to the international community, enabling better global transparency into the activities that countries are or are not taking to control their emissions.”

In addition, he sees this project as part of a wider set of activities at CGS and UMD which seek to enhance global capacity to track and act on the goals of the Paris Agreement and related Sustainable Development Goals.

“We, with our partners at JGCRI, have been able to put together a great team to tackle this issue and we think this can make a real impact by making useful data and analysis available to a wide variety of users.”