Most of the new coal plants under construction or recently commissioned were given their construction permits before 2008. Since then, a majority of plans to build new coal power stations have in fact been shelved.
In Europe, for one project that entered into operation an impressive number of seven projects have been cancelled, see 2015 report by Coalswarm Sierra Club . There is just too much local resistance. Moreover, building new coal plants has become uneconomic – it is very capital intensive, the EU energy market is experiencing an intense overcapacity and renewable energy technology has become more cost competitive. Given the EU's commitment in the Paris Agreement to pursue efforts to keep average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, coal cannot play a role in the EU's future energy mix. This prospect in itself negatively impacts the economic outlook for building new coal plants.
There are still a few heavily contested plans in some EU member states to build new coal units – such as in Greece, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Each single plan is one too many. However, they do not make up for the number of coal plants that have been shut done or are scheduled for closure. As far as the EU is concerned, the long-term future for coal in the EU is a sealed fate: there is none.
The real threat of new coal capacity to be built in Europe still looms large in the Western Balkans and in particular in Turkey. In Turkey alone there are currently 71 new coal plants announced. Local communities, national NGOs, environmental lawyers, medical associates, and archeological experts are working together to shelf these projects. Thanks to the resistance, since 2010 almost half of the projects have been cancelled and some of the planned projects face serious risks.
Countries of South East Europe plan to add about 6 GW of new coal power capacity by 2030, largely backed by the finance from Chinese investors. In the same time, most of the countries strive to join EU between 2020 and 2030. This means that EU has strong responsibility but also leverage to steer the energy transition in the region. The European Commission, European banks as well as Member States provide significant development funding to the region. The messages they send and the way this money is spent pose a test for the EU climate and energy leadership in the closest neighbourhood.