Out of 2 TWe
of coal power plant capacity in operation globally today, more than half is less than 14 years old. Climate policy related to limiting CO2
-emissions makes the longer-term operation of these plants untenable. In this study, we assess the spectrum of available options for the future of both equipment and jobs in the coal power sector by assessing the full scope of “retrofit decarbonization” options. Retrofit decarbonization is an umbrella term that includes adding carbon capture, fuel conversion, and the replacement of coal boilers with new low-carbon energy sources, in each case re-using as much of the existing equipment as economically practicable while reducing or eliminating emissions. This article explores this idea using the Polish coal power fleet as a case study. Retrofit decarbonization in Poland was shown to be most attractive using high-temperature small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) to replace coal boilers, which can lower upfront capital costs by ~28–35% and levelized cost of electricity by 9–28% compared to a greenfield installation. If retrofit decarbonization is implemented globally by the late 2020s, up to 200 billion tons of otherwise-committed CO2
-emissions could be avoided.
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