* Global coal plant capacity fell 16% last year
* Coronavirus has delayed some plants so far this year
By Nina Chestney
LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - Global coal power plant development declined for the fourth year running in 2019, while a total of 13 gigawatts (GW) of capacity construction has been delayed so far this year due to the coronavirus, research by environmental organisations shows.
The annual survey of the global coal plant pipeline by Global Energy Monitor, Greenpeace International, the Sierra Club and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air showed a 16% drop last year in capacity under construction and development.
This year, 15 plants with a total capacity of 13 GW have so far been delayed by workforce or supply chain issues related to the coronavirus outbreak.
However, China’s approval of permits for coal plants has increased in an effort to stimulate its economy. From March 1 to 18 this year, China approved more coal-fired capacity for construction (6.6 GW) than during all of 2019 (6.3 GW).
Even with the overall fall in coal plant development in 2019, the world is not on track for the steep reductions in coal power necessary to meet goals to limit global warming, the report said.
Scientists have said coal use needs to fall 80% by 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Despite the decline in coal plant development, the coal fleet grew in 2019 by a greater amount than in 2018, mainly due to an increase in plants going into operation in China, the report said.
Outside of China, the global coal fleet overall shrank for the second year in a row as retirements exceeded commissioning.
Globally, the amount of power generated from coal in 2019 declined by 3% compared with 2018, with coal plants now operating at an average 51% of their available operating hours, which is a record low.
New coal plant developers face increasingly difficult conditions as restriction on investment have come from banks and insurers, as well as government commitments to phase out coal. (Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Alex Richardson)