Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What do the colored dots mean?
A: The colors indicate the status category:
- Announced: Projects that have appeared in corporate or governmental planning documents but have not yet moved actively forward by applying for permits or seeking land, coal, or financing. Typically such projects are the “Phase II” at a location where “Phase I” is currently under development.
- Pre-permit development: Projects that have actively moved forward in one or more of the following ways: applying for environmental permits, acquiring land, acquiring coal, acquiring water rights, acquiring transmission arrangements, or securing financing. In India the key criterion for moving a project from “Announced” to “Pre-permit development” is the existence of a “terms of reference” (TOR) letter by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change. In China, “Pre-permit development” means a feasibility study has been completed.
- Permitted: Projects that have secured all environmental permits but have not broken ground. In India the key criterion for moving a project from “Pre-permit development” to “Permitted” is the approval of an “environmental clearance” (EC) by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change. In China, “Permitted” means a plant has received a permit from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), allowing for construction, or the equivalent approval at the province level.
- Construction: Site preparation and other activities are underway.
- Shelved: Projects where sufficient evidence is found to indicate that a project is no longer moving forward, but not enough to declare it definitively cancelled. Projects where construction has been put on hold are designated “Shelved.” A project that shows no activity over a period of 2 years is categorized as “Shelved” unless there is evidence to the contrary.
- Cancelled: In some cases utilities announce that they have cancelled a project. More often a project fails to advance and then quietly disappears from company documents. A project that was previously in an active category is moved to “Cancelled” if it disappears from company documents, even if no announcement is made. In addition, a plant that shows no activity over a period of 4 years is categorized as “Cancelled,” unless there is evidence to the contrary. Projects that are switched to natural gas are considered “Cancelled” as coal plants.
- Operating: Units that have entered commercial operation.
- Mothballed: Units that have been deactivated or put into an inactive state but not retired.
- Retired: Units that have been permanently decommissioned or converted to another fuel.
Q: How accurate are locations?
A: Each coal plant location is marked “exact” or “approximate.” In the case of exact coordinates, locations have been visually determined using Google Maps, Google Earth, or Wikimapia (existing projects). For proposed projects, exact locations, if available, are from permit applications or other company documentation. As of January 2019, the GCPT included exact locations for 95.3% of operating units (6,411 out of 6,725).
Q: Can I change the status categories that the map is showing?
A: Yes, go to the legend (bottom right corner of the map) and click in the box next to a color.
Q: What do the numbers in the circles mean?
A: The numbers tell the number of generating units at each location. To find information on each unit, click on the number, then select one of the colored dots.
Q: I’ve Zoomed In, but I don’t see a power plant. Why?
A: If a coal plant is still in the pre-construction phases (Announced, Pre-permit development, or Permitted), there may be no sign of activity. In other cases, only approximate location information could be found by researchers. Finally, in some geographies satellite photos are only updated every few years, so recent activity is not shown.
Q: How do I find out if a location is exact or approximate?
A: Locations tend to be known with greater accuracy as plants move from early stages toward construction. To find out the coordinates of a location and whether a location is exact or approximate, click on the location dot, select the wiki page, and look under “Project Details.”
Q: How can I filter a table so that only plants in a particular category, such as Construction, are listed?
A: Type Construction into the Search line. Note: On iPad, do not click “Go” after typing a search term. Instead, simply hide the keyboard.
Q: How were the carbon dioxide figures derived?
A: The tracker uses a calculation based on size of plant, type of combustion technology, and variety of coal. For details, see “Estimating carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants” (SourceWatch).
Q: Does the tracker show all the operating plants in each country?
A: As of July 2016 the Global Coal Plant Tracker includes all coal-fired units 30 MW or larger.
Q: What about small plants?
A: The tracker covers units totaling 30 MW or larger.
Q: How do you define capacity?
A: Capacity is measured in gross megawatts, prior to subtracting capacity used for plant operations.
Q: What about coal-to-liquids and other synfuels plants?
A: The tracker only includes coal-fired electrical generating plants.
Q: Can you explain the difference between “units” and “plants?”
A: The tracker provides separate data on each of the multiple facilities that typically exist at a particular location. Each of these facilities is referred to as a “unit.” The entire collection of units at a given location is referred to as a “plant.”
Improving the Tracker
Q: What if I find an error or a missing project?
A: Please send information on errors or omissions to Ted Nace (ted AT tednace.com).
Q: Who built this tool?
A: The tracker was designed and produced by Global Energy Monitor (formerly CoalSwarm), a network of researchers seeking to develop collaborative informational resources on coal impacts and alternatives. To the extent possible, the information in the tracker has been verified by activists and researchers familiar with particular countries. The following people participated in plant-by-plant research: Elena Bixel (Klima Allianz), Bob Burton (Global Energy Monitor), Gregor Clark (Global Energy Monitor), Joshua Frank (Global Energy Monitor), Ted Nace (Global Energy Monitor), Christine Shearer (Global Energy Monitor), Adrian Wilson (Global Energy Monitor), and Aiqun Yu (Global Energy Monitor). Additional wiki editing and fact checking was provided by Christine Law, Iris Shearer, Austin Woerner, and Yvette Zhu. The tracker architect and project manager was Ted Nace. Web/GIS programming was done by Tom Allnutt and Gregor Allensworth (GreenInfo Network), with support from Tim Sinnott (GreenInfo Network).
Q: How do I cite the data?
A: Please cite the data as Global Energy Monitor’s Global Coal Plant Tracker, with either the date of the database or the date the data was accessed.