According to a new survey by the World Resources Institute (WRI), the number of coal-fired power plants is set to grow by 1,200 new facilities and add 1.4 million megawatts of generation to the world total. China has 363 new projects on its books and India has 455 new projects planned, far outstripping any other countries. There are 36 proposed new coal-fired plants in the U.S.
Given the costs related to lowering emissions from U.S. coal burning plants, it is questionable whether the proposed U.S. plants will ever be built. The abundance of cheap natural gas adds to the feasibility of new coal-fired generation in the U.S.
The largest operator of coal-fired generation in the U.S. is Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) with nearly 25,000 megawatts of generating capacity. American Electric Power Co. Inc. (NYSE: AEP) owns 24,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation and Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) owns about 17,000 megawatts of coal generation.
The WRI also notes a substantial increase in the global coal trade. Trade in the Pacific region is increasing rapidly due to demand from China and India, while trade in the Atlantic region is declining due to overall economic weakness and public resistance to more coal-fired generation. The top coal exporting countries are Australia, Indonesia, Russia, the U.S., and South Africa.
In 2010, U.S. exports totaled 7.4% of all U.S. production and that number has likely risen in the past two years. About 94% of U.S. coal exports leave the country from the East Coast, the Gulf Coast, Detroit, and Seattle. New terminals proposed near Seattle could add up to nearly 188,000 metric tons a year to total U.S. exports.
The WRI survey is available here.