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Coal-to-gas conversion: useless for the economy, harmful to the climate

The global coal-to-gas conversion pipeline has almost 90 GW

(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – The global abandonment of coal has the appearance of a long-term shift towards gas. And its size is enough to blow up climate targets. The coal-to-gas conversion pipeline, to date, has about 90 GW globally, accounting for 13% of the total capacity of gas-fired power plants under development. If all of these plants went into operation, their total lifespan would produce more than 5 Gt CO2e (billion tons of CO2 equivalent). Thus nullifying the cut in CO2 emissions from coal with a substantial amount of methane emissions.

The alarm came from a Global Energy Monitor report. “Although the fundamental shift away from coal over the past decade has been a positive development, the shift from coal to gas poses a risk to global climate goals,” the document’s conclusions state. “The favorable economy of renewable energy with storage, the volatility of gas prices, the instability of supplies and the risk of stranded assets are all factors that support the total abandonment of gas and the acceleration of the transition to clean energy“.

For these reasons, GEM argues, with gas that can no longer be classified as a bridging fuel, “the Coal-to-gas conversion is contrary to climate objectives and makes no economic sense”.

Europe faces conversion from coal to gas

Most coal-to-gas conversion projects are in East Asia: 29.6 GW, which would produce around 1.8 Gt CO2e emissions. In second place is Europe with projects for 19.7 GW: almost a third of the new regional planned gas capacity.

The most active countries on this front are Poland (5,38 GW), Germany (4,1 GW), UK (3,1 GW), Romania (2,1 GW) and Italy (1,7 GW). For all, the best option would be to switch directly to renewables (net of the re-ignition of some coal plants to cope with the energy crisis). The report shows how the alcohol of gas, for these countries, beats between 282 $/MWh of the United Kingdom and 341 $/MWh of Romania, while the indices for solar and wind onshore, both with storage, are included in forks of 85-116 and 86-99 $/MWh respectively.

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