Today, General Electric announced it would no longer build new coal plants anywhere in the world. Almost exactly one year ago, NRDC published an issue brief highlighting the series of expensive, polluting coal projects GE was planning to build. So, the announcement that GE won’t build any new coal plants is an important step in the right direction. Now the question is—what about projects under consideration that are not yet built? While the announcement from GE was short on details, we hope that this means any projects not yet operational will also be cancelled immediately.
Many of these projects may only be agreements between companies to conduct feasibility studies. So, no construction has been done, the project loans have not been signed. Thus, they should be relatively straightforward deals to cancel. Such is the case with GE’s planned projects in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Bangladesh and Bosnia, at least. It’s also reasonable that other projects in early phases of construction should be cancelled at this stage, given that it’s now abundantly clear that coal projects aren’t financially or environmentally viable in the long run, as evidenced by GE’s exit from building new coal plants.
Coal plants are the biggest single source of global carbon emissions—which are fueling climate change. GE’s involvement in coal projects would have locked in carbon emissions, local pollution, and economic harms across the globe, for decades, at a time when clean, affordable energy solutions abound and costs to build and install these systems are plummeting. We’re glad GE is heeding the calls of communities around the world to end investment in coal.
While more details are needed about GE’s announcement, what’s clear is that there’s no future for new coal. Or as GE’s press release stated: “we are focused on power generation businesses that have attractive economics and a growth trajectory”—and coal is not one of those.