Touting clean energy yet pushing coal plants: What’s up with that?!

The below Sept. 9, 2019 press release from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

General Electric, which boasts of being a clean energy leader, is quietly doubling down on the dirty energy of the past with plans to equip more than a dozen new coal-fired power plants in countries like Cambodia, Kenya, Poland, Pakistan and Vietnam, a report released today [Sept. 9, 2019] by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows.

Wastestreams from coal-fired power plant

These coal power plants would sharply increase carbon pollution, harming public health and leading to hundreds of premature deaths annually from the projects—if completed. The plants also could destabilize economies and would add billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, worsening the global climate crisis.

“GE is quietly backing over a dozen dirty coal power plants overseas. Dumping pollution and pain in countries already suffering from the climate crisis is wrong. GE should stop pretending it’s a leader in energy technology or innovation and immediately end the hypocrisy of touting its clean energy bona fides while pushing countries to build more coal plants,” said report co-author Han Chen, energy policy manager in the International program at NRDC. “GE should cancel its coal projects, stop putting profits ahead of people and invest more in clean technologies.”

NRDC’s issue brief, General Electric’s Coal Plant Profiteering,” is being released as world leaders prepare to gather for the United Nations Climate Action summit in New York, Sept. 23-26.

Local, state, and national governmental leaders, companies, and civil society groups are getting ready to announce stronger plans to combat climate change and speed a transition to a cleaner more energy-efficient world. The New York meeting is a leadup for a U.N. climate change conference, known as COP26, that will be held in November 2020, where countries are expected to strengthen climate goals reached in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Among companies supporting the Paris goals, General Electric calls itself a leader in “the future of energy.” It, for example, touts its work on a massive Canadian wind farm to “harness renewable energy in places previously thought impossible.”

But while the company, which has dropped off the Forbes Top 50 US businesses list in recent years, is developing clean energy projects in North America, NRDC research shows that it’s also a crucial backer and supplier of coal power plants in countries with few, or no, rules limiting emissions of air pollution and greenhouse gases from electricity generating facilities.

The issue brief identifies and provides details about four particularly egregious GE-backed projects:

  • The first coal plant in East Africa, to be located next to a UNESCO World Heritage site in Lamu, Kenya.
  • A coal plant in Kosovo from which the World Bank withdrew its financing after determining that renewable energy would be more affordable.
  • A coal plant in Bosnia and Herzegovina that does not comply with European Union finance standards and violates the union’s pollution control rules.
  • A coal plant in Vietnam that has been delayed following the imposition of U.S. sanctions on a Russian project contractor.

Other GE coal projects are in: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

GE’s involvement in coal projects will lock in carbon emissions, local pollution, and economic harms across the globe at a time when clean, affordable energy solutions abound, and the costs of deploying clean energy are plunging.

GE should cease its involvement in new coal power plants, NRDC argues, and instead focus on building up a workforce for zero-carbon technologies that would put it in alignment with the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement seeks to curb greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, aiming for a 1.5-degree world.

In the fall of 2018, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report calling on the world to work to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avert a planetary climate catastrophe of raging storms, rising seas, dying oceans and worldwide hardship.

For more information related to this issue, see: “GE’s Climate Hypocrisy: Building Coal Plants While Touting Clean Energy” here.

Image above: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

Published by Alan Kandel