Skip to main content

State of Global Coal Power 2023

Back to All Publications
picture of coal power plants

As of 2023, are we on track to achieve a rapid and just coal transition in lin with 1.5°C?

New analysis summarizes the state of global coal power in 2023 with an assessment of its driving factors

Meet the CGS Experts!

Ryna Cui, Research Director

Camille Wejnert-Depue, Research Assistant

Camryn Dahl, Research Associate

Michael Westphal, Associate Research Scholar

Nate Hultman, Director

R. Cui, C. Wejnert-Depue, C. Dahl, M. Westphal, N. Hultman. November 2023. “State of Global Coal Power 2023.” Center for Global Sustainability, University of Maryland. 18 pp

  • Operating coal power capacity has reached 2,095 GW globally in 2023, growing by 9% since the Paris Agreement in 2015. Overall, 280 GW of old coal plants retired but 458 GW of new plants added, for a net addition of 178 GW. 
  • Compared to 2015, the expected growth of coal capacity has been dramatically reduced due to a large number of cancellations: projects under development have declined by 937 GW during this period.
  • Nevertheless, new coal plants are still being built (204 GW) and planned (353 GW) across 38 countries today, which may further increase total coal capacity in the next few years.
  • The share of total electricity generation globally that is produced by coal continues to decrease. Although global electricity demand has increased by 21% since 2015, coal power generation has only grown by 11%. In many key regions, coal plants are utilized at lower capacity and are expected to have a different role in the evolving power system.
  • Since 2016, important policy progress has been made regarding setting goals for coal phaseout and finance. 30 national and 48 subnational governments committed to a coal phaseout. The G7 and China announced a stop to financing overseas coal projects, and several new international financial mechanisms were launched to support clean energy transitions. 14 countries removed all new projects in the pipeline compared to 2016, and 6 countries have made no new coal commitments to reduce current projects in the pipeline. 
  • Since 2016, the expected 2030 emissions from coal power generation have decreased by 2.9 GtCO2 due to project retirements and cancellations; however, coal power emissions are still growing globally, albeit at a slower rate. Coal power emissions in 2030 should decrease by roughly 3.9 GtCO2 to stay in line with a 2°C pathway and by 5.8 GtCO2 with a 1.5°C pathway.
  • To close the emissions gap and stay on a 1.5°C-aligned pathway, global coal power generation needs to decline from today by roughly a quarter in 2025 and by nearly 60% in 2030. This can be achieved through a combination of canceling new coal projects under development, closing down older and inefficient coal plants, and/or lowering the utilization of remaining coal fleets, alongside tripling the total installed renewable capacity and substantially adding new storage capacity by 2030, which needs to increase by more than twenty times current capacity levels to reach net-zero emissions. 
  • The global coal transition has been delayed, especially since 2021 across most countries. While new coal capacity is still being added in Asia, progress in closing  existing old coal plants in the OECD regions is also insufficient.
  • Key reasons for the delayed transition include energy security and grid stability concerns, economic recovery from the global pandemic, financing challenges for renewables and other alternatives, and the political economy of coal with powerful stakeholders. The near-term challenges need to be resolved during this critical decade to break through the power system transition bottleneck, which has a continued preference for coal over other solutions.
  • Successful project-level transition cases in different countries demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of a rapid, just coal phaseout carried out with important policy support, finance, stakeholder engagement, and reliable energy infrastructure. They provide important lessons for scaling up these efforts.

In the year of the first Global Stocktake, CGS released a new analysis that evaluates the international community’s current status on coal reliance through an assessment of its driving factors. It finds that progress toward a 1.5°C-aligned coal transition is insufficient globally and uneven across regions. To track this information, CGS conducted a comprehensive data and policy review, tracked changes in coal power capacity and generation since the Paris Agreement, estimated the emissions impact of operating and new coal plants based on the latest pipeline data, and then quantified the gap to 1.5°C- and 2°C-aligned pathways.

View All Publications