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G7 Nations Plan to Abandon Coal by 2035

G7 Nations Plan to Abandon Coal by 2035

May 5, 2024

G7 Nations Plan to Abandon Coal by 2035

The Group of Seven (G7) countries that include the United States, the UK, Italy, France, Japan, Germany, and Canada have committed to ending the use of coal for power generation by the year 2035.

Coal, which currently represents approximately 15% of the G7's energy mix, has been a cornerstone of power generation for decades. According to climate nonprofit Ember, as cited by Reuters’ Gavin Maguire, the reliance on coal varies among the G7 nations, with Germany and Japan using coal for 25% and 29% of their electricity, respectively. This diversity in dependency indicates that for some members, the transition away from coal could be particularly complex.

The agreement contains a provision similar to one by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which stipulates that coal and new gas-fired power plants must install carbon capture systems or cease operations by 2039. The G7's earlier deadline of 2035 signals a more aggressive approach.

The agreement also anticipates economic shifts, as reducing coal use in the G7 could make it more affordable for other large economies like China and India, potentially leading to increased coal consumption in those countries, as well as in less affluent regions.

Experts highlight the difficulties in fully replacing coal with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which are not capable of meeting demand instantly. Additionally, the construction of new nuclear power plants is a lengthy process, and recent waning interest in small modular reactors leaves traditional large reactors as the primary option.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, the CEO of one of India’s biggest wind and solar companies, ReNew, explained, “The reality is we can keep adding renewables until we’re blue in the face and it won’t be enough.”

On the demand side, energy needs are escalating, particularly with the impending expansion of artificial intelligence (AI), which requires substantial energy for computing. This has prompted U.S. gas producers to plan for increased production, as renewables likely will not meet the surging demand.

Global industrialization continues to drive an uptick in electricity consumption, contradicting the purported feasibility of the G7's plan. Even the UK, with minimal coal-based electricity generation, has experienced instances where coal plants were reopened to offset low wind energy production.

The potential for increased coal use elsewhere and the challenges in meeting growing energy demands cast doubt on the plan to replace coal with renewables.

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