Conservationists are celebrating yet another environmental milestone as the last polluting coal-fired power plants in Austria and Sweden closed their doors.
Sweden’s original commitment to stop using coal was a target the country wanted to achieve by 2022, but the recent closure of Stockholm Exergi AB’s Värtaverket power plant means the nation will see their goal realized two years early.
According to a statement released earlier this month by Swedish Energy company Exergi, the plant was shut down following a mild winter in which neither boiler was required to operate in order to supplement the heating for 800,000 customers in the nation’s capital.
“This plant has provided the Stockholmers with heat and electricity since 1989, (but) today we know that we must stop using all fossil fuels, therefore the coal needs to be phased out and we do so several years before the original plan,” said Stockholm Exergi CEO Anders Egelrud in the statement.
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Just one day later, on the other side of the Baltic Sea, Austria saw the last coal-fired facility in its country shuttered, as the Mellach district heating plant in the city of Verbund closed.
The two countries became the second and third in Europe to have zero coal-powered electric plants, joining Belgium, which remarkably achieved its coal-free goal in 2016.
“With Sweden going coal-free in the same week as Austria, the downward trajectory of coal in Europe is clear,” said Kathrin Gutmann, campaign director for Europe Beyond Coal. “Against the backdrop of the serious health challenges we are currently facing, leaving coal behind in exchange for renewables is the right decision and will repay us in kind with improved health, climate protection and more resilient economies.”
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Seven more countries have made preparations to move on from coal by 2025, including France (2022), Slovakia (2023), Portugal (2023), the UK (2024), Ireland (2025) and Italy (2025), according to Europe Beyond Coal.
Natural market forces are driving coal prices up, as sellers of coal power and shares in coal plants must sell high to cover costs associated with the fall in demand.
According to statistics from Carbon Tracker, a UK-based think tank, 46% of coal plants in the EU ran at a financial loss in 2017, while in 2019, the price of operating a coal plant was almost 100% higher than equivalent renewable operations.
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