Coal-fired power took a beating during the pandemic, study finds

(New York Times, 8 Feb 2021) A broad move away from coal power was an important factor in pushing down global greenhouse gas emissions, researchers said, and could help accelerate a shift toward renewable energy.

The share of energy generated from coal has dropped more sharply during the coronavirus pandemic than that of any other power source, according to a new report on Monday that looked at coal demand in some of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

The shift away from coal power had a significant impact on global emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide, the researchers said, and could lead to an acceleration of the global shift toward renewable energy.

The report, led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, analyzed emissions and electricity demand in the United States, Europe and India.

Ottmar Edenhofer, director and chief economist at the Potsdam Institute and an author of the study, said the findings were surprising because natural gas has traditionally had the highest operating costs of all power sources, so gas-fired plants are usually the first to be taken offline when demand for power falls. The sharp decline in gas prices during the pandemic, however, appears to have changed that calculation, making coal power more expensive than gas power.

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New York Times, 8 Feb 2021: Coal-fired power took a beating during the pandemic, study finds