Asia’s Energy Dilemma: Green Energy Takes a Backseat to Coal

Asia Central: Double Coal Power Generation in 10 Years

In the last decade, Central Asian states have doubled their coal power generation capacity, with further expansion plans on the horizon.
However, this approach exacerbates environmental challenges and strains state budgets in the long run.

Despite some efforts towards renewable energy, Central Asian nations are prioritizing coal, compromising their climate commitments.
Global warming is causing temperatures to rise more quickly in Central Asia than in other parts of the world.
A monitoring group report reveals that Central Asian states are exacerbating their environmental challenges by doubling the use of coal-fired power plants, a primary source of greenhouse gases fueling global warming.

According to the Global Energy Monitor’s annual report titled “Boom and Bust Coal 2024: Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline,” the role of coal in energy generation has doubled in Central Asia over the past decade.
Plans to add coal-fired power generation capacity in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan reached 8.1 gigawatts (GW) last year, compared to 3.9 GW in 2013, according to GEM data.
Currently, coal accounts for 45% of electricity production in the region.
Turkmenistan’s energy production is based on natural gas and therefore was not included in the GEM coal report.

Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are among the eight countries globally that planned the construction of new coal-fired power plants in 2023.
The report also highlights that no Central Asian state has a plan to phase out coal-fired power generation; most of them do not even have a plan to achieve carbon neutrality in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“Central Asia is set to significantly expand coal energy generation while most other regions are stabilizing or reducing proposals.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are heading in the wrong direction,” states the GEM report.

The report also argues that Central Asia’s current embrace of coal energy production may solve short-term issues but will add long-term stress to state budgets.

Over 60% of the 16.8 GW of electricity generated by burning coal in Central Asia in 2023 came from obsolete plants, according to the GEM report.
The typical operational lifespan of a coal plant is around 40 years.
Continuing to operate plants beyond the 40-year limit poses “serious risks” of pollution and failures, particularly for outdated combined heat and power plants, which face higher risks during cold winters.

In 2023, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev approved a strategy for Kazakhstan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
By the end of 2023, Kazakhstan also joined the Global Methane Pledge.
Methane emissions from fuel extraction are another source of global warming.
However, in the same year, Kazakhstan announced plans to add 4.6 GW of coal-fired power generation capacity, the third-largest proposed capacity in 2023 after China and India, as noted by the GEM report.

The two largest projects are in Ekibastuz, a city in the northern Pavlodar region, not far from the Russian border: one involves expanding the Ekibastuz-2 plant, and the other is the construction of a new plant, Ekibastuz-3.
No existing coal plant in Kazakhstan has a confirmed official retirement date.

The report states that “Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are following Kazakhstan’s lead but on a smaller scale.” For instance, Kyrgyzstan signed an agreement with Russian companies to build a new coal plant in the Jalal-Abad region, capable of generating 0.7 GW annually.
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan plans to add two units to the existing Angren plant.
Concurrently, coal production is increasing in Central Asia, as evidenced by plans at Kazakhstan’s Bogatyr coal mine, the largest coal source in Central Asia, to increase production by 25% in 2024.

Overall, the GEM report showed that the G7 group of major industrialized countries represented 15% (310 GW) of coal-fired electricity generation capacity in 2023, down from 23% (443 GW) in 2015.
Global coal-fired electricity production grew by 2% in 2023, totaling 2,130 GW.
China accounted for two-thirds of global coal energy production.

Author: Hermes A.I.

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