Phasing out Coal

Coal is the most damaging form of energy for climate change and human health. The coal phase-out must be accelerated

Europe has a coal problem.  Even as clean energy sources grow, many countries are still reliant on generating power from dirty coal.  It has huge impacts: on climate change from its greenhouse gas emissions and on health from its air pollution.

Coal is the most polluting way to generate electricity.  It comprised 18% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and 42% of the EU ETS CO2 emissions in 2015 and caused around 23,000 premature deaths across Europe in 2015.

Sandbag specialises in analysing these impacts and advocating for the phase out of coal in Europe by 2030 and the UK by 2025.

Our research shows:

  • Phasing out coal is the simplest and quickest way to achieve substantial reductions in CO2 emissions;
  • Since 2010, renewables have largely displaced gas generation, not coal generation. Also, German lignite generation is barely running less than baseload; and
  • Coal power generation is getting subsidies which is keeping it open longer than it otherwise would

We strongly believe that phasing out coal is fundamental to delivering the EU and UK’s emission reduction targets.  Coal phase out, can be a ‘quick win’ for many countries to deliver climate and health benefits, with a whole range of other affordable low carbon options now available for power generation.

Coal is ready to close, and many plants are only still operational because they are being propped up by government subsidies.  Through policy measures including carbon pricing, phase out commitments, air quality standards and support for low carbon power generation technologies, Europe is ready to make the shift to a different energy mix.

Sandbag working with partner organisations across Europe, has co-written three landmark reports on coal power plants in Europe:

Europe’s Dark Cloud” (July 2016) describes how air pollution from coal power plants causes millions of cases of asthma and bronchitis.  It describes how air pollution from coal plants uniquely ascends into the sky from the tall chimneys, and rains down as mini-particles up to hundreds of kilometres away.  This means that, even if you are walking in the mountains, you will always be breathing in pollution from the Dark Cloud of Europe’s coal plants.

Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud” (October 2016) describes how pollution limits for coal plants are so far away from what is possible, leading to health impacts 85% higher than they should be, and showing for every country what the benefits of tighter pollution limits would be.  What’s more, it shows over half of Europe’s coal fleet has exemptions from the new pollution limits which came in from January 2016, listing the derogations of every coal plant in Europe.

Why Every Country Needs a Coal Phaseout Plan” (December 2015) describes how coal power plants emitted 18% of all European greenhouse gases in 2014 – and from just 280 chimneys.

Our key work areas are:

  • Analysis of coal plants to highlight where plant could and should be closed in Europe;
  • Targeted analysis to support the phase out debates in the EU and in key Member States;
  • Targeted advocacy on major utilities and the new energy market players; and
  • Continuing to push for an ambitious coal phase out policy in the UK, focusing on the Government’s current consultation on coal phase out and ensuring that the Government remains committed to their Carbon Price Support mechanism

Recent Coal blog posts

Overhauling UK energy – An ambitious new proposal for power, heat and industry

The deadline for UK coal phaseout is looming and the remaining 6GW of coal capacity on the grid must be replaced. Meanwhile, options for cutting emissions from the heat (gas) network have yet to...
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The UK’s coal phaseout needs the carbon price support

The UK government today released a consultation on how to enact into law their commitment to phase-out unabated coal generation by 2025.  It is good news that the government is still committed to...
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The EUETS is being undermined by falling coal generation

Coal power generation has fallen fast.  The reasons are nothing to do the EUETS.  The fall in coal is a major reason that the carbon price is so low.  And this means the rest of the EUETS is getting...
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