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Quantifying operational lifetimes for coal power plants under the Paris goals

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coal power

Abstract: A rapid transition away from unabated coal use is essential to fulfilling the Paris climate goals. However, many countries are actively building and operating coal power plants. Here we use plant-level data to specify alternative trajectories for coal technologies in an integrated assessment model. We then quantify cost-effective retirement pathways for global and country-level coal fleets to limit long-term temperature change. We present our results using a decision-relevant metric: the operational lifetime limit. Even if no new plants are built, the lifetimes of existing units are reduced to approximately 35 years in a well-below 2 °C scenario or 20 years in a 1.5 °C scenario. The risk of continued coal expansion, including the near-term growth permitted in some Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), is large. The lifetime limits for both 2 °C and 1.5 °C are reduced by 5 years if plants under construction come online and 10 years if all proposed projects are built.


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School Authors: Leon Clarke, Yiyun 'Ryna' Cui, James 'Jae' Edmonds, Sha Yu, Alicia Zhao

Other Authors: Cornelia Auer, Ryan Barrett, Antoine Boirard, Renaud Concordet, Jérôme Hilaire, Otso Manninen, Thessa Beck, David Bresch, Christoph Bertram, Molly Charles, Dawn Holland, Ian Hurst, Elmar Kriegler, Chahan Kropf, Iana Liadze, Theresa Löber, Franziska Piontek, Jihoon Min, Edo Schets, Inga Sauer, Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, Bas van Ruijven