The incompatibility of HELE coal technology with 2°C scenarios

heleIn December 2015, international governments pledged in Paris to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to keep it under 1.5°C. In order to meet these commitments, the world needs to move towards a low-carbon economy. According to the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) assessment of emissions scenarios, this implies that by 2050 the global electricity sector needs to be decarbonised. The deployment of high-efficient low-emission (HELE) coal-fired power plants is presented by the coal industry and some governments as a technology that is climate friendly, claiming that if combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) – another, separate technology – it would ultimately lead to zero and even negative emissions.

The Ecofys report  shows that HELE coal-fired electricity generation is incompatible with the goal to keep temperature rise under 2°C. The global carbon budget and the time remaining to reduce greenhouse gas emissions simply do not allow for replacement of retired coal plants with new more efficient coal plants, let alone capacity extensions. The 1,400 GW of currently planned coal capacity is not compatible with limiting warming to 2°C. If all planned capacity were HELE coal-fired electricity generation plants, the 2°C goal would still not be within reach.

This conclusion was reached through an assessment of the IPCC scenarios presented in the Fifth Assessment Report, of the role of coal plants in the IEA World Energy Outlook 2015 scenarios, and of the data on coal plants currently planned and/or under construction.

David de Jager
Energy Systems and Markets

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    By: David de Jager

    Energy Systems and Markets
    David de Jager (MSc Physics, Utrecht University, 1982-1988) has extensive experience in the area of RES deployment. For several years he was responsible for the Dutch statistics on RES and as a consultant he contributed to the RES target setting by the Dutch energy sector. As a consultant he contributed to the strategy development of several multinational utilities. He has performed several studies on renewable energy technology development, financing and deployment. In recent years he concentrated on the interaction of policy instrument design and (costs of) financing. Currently he has the following main assignments:

    as Principal Consultant at the business area Energy Systems and Markets at Ecofys, and
    as Operating Agent for the IEA Implementing Agreement on Renewable Energy Technology Deployment (
    His programme and process management skills are excellent. As manager of the predecessor of the current Strategy Division of Ecofys, he contributed to the growth and internationalisation of this field. He was previously assigned as senior staff member to the Technical Support Unit of Working Group 3 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, As such he contributed to the scoping of IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, and was as process manager responsible for WG3’s contribution to the IPCC/TEAP Special Report on Safeguarding the Ozone Layer and the Global Climate System. He also acted as senior consultant to the board of Econcern in developing large-scale offshore energy supply systems, according to the so-called POSEIDON vision. In 2010/2011 he acted as Review Editor for the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SSREN) (Chapter 11: Policy, Financing and Implementation). As Operating Agent for the IEA-RETD he is responsible for the programme management of international project- and communication activities related to large-scale deployment of renewable energy.

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