Well done, world! Analysis out today shows that global coal burn will fall by the most on record in 2015 – by up to 5% this year. This is after registering almost zero growth last year.
And the reasons are exactly as you would hope: more non-fossil generation and energy efficiency are offsetting coal generation.
Chinese coal use fell by 4.6% in Jan-Sep year-on-year, much of which was from the electricity sector. Electricity consumption growth fell to almost zero as the economic growth shifted towards less energy-intensive sectors, and huge amounts of non-fossil generation capacity were built including wind, solar, hydro and nuclear, which enabled coal generation to see unprecedented falls..
In the U.S., coal generation is on target to fall by 9% this year, as renewables and gas replaces coal, reducing coal's share of the electricity mix to 35% this year, compared to 50% just a few years ago.
But the falls are global. Even Indonesia and Turkey – who are building huge amounts of new coal capacity – saw falls in coal generation this year. Europe coal burn did not rebound after a huge 8% fall last year, and Indian coal burn did not rise as fast as forecast.
What is happening is not a one year blip. It is a concerted attack on the world's dirtiest fuel – in part because of its CO2 emissions, and in part because of its part in a pollution epidemic across Asia. So many affordable alternatives exist to generating electricity without using coal, coal's decline seems guaranteed.
The fall in coal generation shows that pledges made by governments in the run up to climate talks in Paris are not hot air. The pledges are based on actions that are already beginning to be implemented, and are already achieving great results.