Can’t Save Coal

Can’t Save Coal, the November issue of, explains that no set of policies from any country, including the United States, can rescue coal from the rapidly declining costs of wind and solar power.

If you believe the global coal crash is entirely due to policy, then you might be persuaded that policy alone could revive coal. However, the evidence is overwhelming now that China, in singular fashion, revived global coal  from a multi-decade slumber; and when China’s economy finally slowed down (after completing the bulk of its industrial buildout) coal returned to its previous resting place. More devastating for coal: as China’s growth revolution came to its inevitable resolution, US natural gas was waiting in the wings to replace a very old fleet of coal-fired power plants; and solar’s cost decline gathered speed. This is why, as we look  ahead to the start of a Trump administration, we can pretty easily see the free-market has already spoken on the coal question. However, it is worth inspecting once again the veritable wall that coal now faces, as the costs to fund the global supply chain of coal extraction, and combustion, are simply not budging. Meanwhile, the world’s energy system outside of coal continues to press forward. Even if some miracle does  spur coal growth in the future, it’s likely by then the world will have moved on to a different reality.

In the continuously updating Global Grid Decarb Monitor, the forecast for power generation growth from wind and solar is maintained. We continue to expect that in 2017, a full 35% of the marginal growth in global power generation will come exclusively from these two sources..

Finally, The Transition Index, composed of 70% ETFs and 30% individual equities, declined to 99.8 at the end of October, having started the new year at a notional value of 100.

–Gregor Macdonald, Editor of – A Journal of Energy Transition.