Indonesia announced that it will delay the closure of coal plants across the country, claiming wealthy nations’ offers to help were insufficient. The country now plans to start shutting down coal plants no earlier than 2035, having previously committed to begin retiring its coal-fired capacity by 2030. The move highlights the global struggle to wean power supply away from coal, demand for which reached a record last year.
The delay marks a significant step back for one of the most ambitious energy transition projects in the world. Indonesia and a group of wealthy nations had agreed to a $20 billion deal to move the country, the ninth biggest CO2 emitter, to renewable energy. However, Jakarta claims that its requests for the project’s funding to be provided as grants rather than loans — in a bid to lessen the country’s debt burden — ”fell mostly on deaf ears,” Climate Home News reported. “It is very clear that they are not eager to provide financing for early retirement,” an Indonesian official told Reuters.
Despite global climate pledges, the share of the world’s electricity generation from coal has essentially remained stagnant in the last 40 years, having fallen by just 2% since 1985, data by Ember shows. Growing demand in Asian economies pushed global coal consumption to a record high last year, with the International Energy Agency forecasting that demand will stay at similar levels this year. China, India, and Southeast Asian countries are expected to account for 75% of global use. “Demand remains stubbornly high in Asia, even as many of those economies have significantly ramped up renewable energy sources,” the head of energy markets and security at the IEA said.
Chief among the nations that have ramped up both coal and renewable energy production is China, posing a paradox to climate experts: The country is by far the biggest producer of both solar and coal powered energy, having built as much clean energy capacity over four years as it planned to build in 10, while adding new coal-fired plants. China is now installing as many solar panels and coal plants as the rest of the world combined. “If they know how to run their grids with high levels of renewables,” it will ease demand for coal, a former aide to U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry told The New York Times. “The real outcome for climate depends on how you manage that grid.”