The Global Coal Plant Tracker, showing 22 new coal power units planned for construction in the EU. Graphic: CoalSwarm

11 April 2017 (Greenpeace) – Last week EU energy industry group Eurelectric released what seems on the surface to be a seismic announcement.

With just a few exceptions, Europe’s utilities pledged that they would stop investing in new coal plants after 2020.

The Guardian declared it “the end of coal” in Europe, and the story even found its way into the US press.

But it’s more complicated than that.

There is absolutely a sea-change against coal in Europe, and this announcement is a big symbolic step, but let’s dive into the caveats and qualifiers before we get too carried away.

Pipeline

The CoalSwarm plant tracker says there are currently 22 new coal units in the pipeline in Europe, some of which are likely to be built well into the 2020s.

These projects will go ahead as planned, Eurelectric confirmed to Energydesk.

That includes 4 coal units under construction in the Czech Republic, 2 units currently at the pre-permit stage in Germany, and 1 in Hungary that’s nearly a decade away from being finished.

Utilities can also announce new coal projects in the next three years to be built after the 2020 threshold, though Eurelectric stressed that its the companies is represents are “setting a new direction.”

In addition, the whole ‘no new coal investment’ pledge does no apply to projects outside of the EU.

Poland and Greece

Look, it’s great that most of Europe is going to stop greenlighting new coal projects in a few years time, but the countries that refuse to do that are the ones that really matter.

Poland and Greece – two countries committed to coal and with a bunch of projects in the pipeline – would not sign on to Eurelectric’s statement.

On its own, the 10GW in Poland’s pipeline represents well over half of the planned 16.8GW of new coal capacity in Europe.

Not only will Poland build those 8 new units, and Greece go ahead with its 2 coal power stations, but both countries reserve the right to approve, permit and build new units in the years after. [more]

Factcheck: Is Europe getting off coal?

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