The long goodbye for coal in Europe is accelerating as the cost of shifting to green energy plunges. Companies including Drax Group Plc, Steag GmbH to Uniper SE are closing or converting coal-burning generators at a record pace from Austria to the U.K., made obsolete by competition from cheaper wind and solar power. After more than 500 years of using the carbonaceous rock — which fueled the industrial revolution even as emissions warmed the atmosphere — the continent simply can’t afford it anymore and is moving on. “It’s an entirely different fuel-price world,” said Johannes Truby, an analyst at the Paris-based International Energy Agency. Since 2012, the agency has cut its outlook for European Union coal use in 2030 by 12 percent and now expects just 114 gigawatts of capacity will remain by then, compared with 177 gigawatts in 2014, the latest annual data available.
Countries including the U.K., France, Portugal, Austria and Finland are phasing out coal with policies in place to end its use in power generation. Elsewhere in the world, the fossil fuel is in a life-or-death struggle because green energy produces cheaper electricity and employs more people. Even in the U.S., where President Donald Trump vowed to cut environmental standards to revive coal jobs, many plants can’t compete with abundant and low-cost natural gas.