Global Energy Monitor’s Global Coal Plant Tracker uses a two-level system for organizing information. Summary information is maintained as a database tracking individual coal plant unit. A wiki page is then created for each power station within the SourceWatch wiki. The data is updated bi-annually, in January and July. 

Research Process

Preliminary lists of plants in each country were gathered from public and private data sources including Global Energy Observatory, CARMA, BankTrack’s “Dirty Deals” list, Kara Atlas (Turkey), Wikipedia, Enipedia, SourceWatch, WRI’s “Global Coal Risk Assessment” report (2012), Platts UDI World Energy Power Plant database, Industcards “Power Plants Around the World Photo Gallery,” India Central Electricity Authority’s “Monthly Report on Broad Status of Thermal Power Projects in the Country,” National Integrated Resource Plans, reports by state-owned and private utilities, and national-level trackers by environmental advocates (US: Sierra Club; Turkey: Kara Atlas; Germany: Deutsche Umwelthilfe). For each project in China, the corresponding Chinese name was identified. For all countries, alternate names for projects were also recorded.

For each project location, a wiki page is created on Global Energy Monitor’s Wiki pages provide a repository for in-depth information including project background, financing, environmental impacts, coal types and sources, public opposition, aerial photographs, videos, links to permits, coordinates, and maps. Under standard wiki convention, each piece of information is linked to a published reference, such as a news article, company report, or regulatory permit.

In order to ensure data integrity in the open-access wiki environment of SourceWatch, Global Energy Monitor researchers review all edits of project wiki pages by unknown editors, an infrequent occurrence.

For each proposed coal plant unit, one of the following status categories is assigned and reviewed every six months:

  • Announced: Proposed plants that have appeared in corporate or government plans but have not yet moved actively forward by applying for permits or seeking land, coal, or financing. Typically such a project is the “Phase II” at a location where “Phase I” is currently under development.
  • Pre-permit development: Plants that are seeking environmental approvals and pursuing other developmental steps such as securing land and water rights. In India, this means that a “Terms of Reference” has been received from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF). In China, this means a feasibility study has been completed.
  • Permitted: All necessary environmental approvals have been received but the project has not yet begun construction. In India, this means a project has received an “Environmental Clearance” permit from the MoEF. In China, this means a plant has received a permit from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) or from a provincial DRC, allowing for construction.
  • Construction: Site preparation and other development and construction activities are underway.
  • Shelved: In the absence of an announcement that the sponsor is putting its plans on hold, a project is considered “shelved” if there are no reports of activity over a period of two years.
  • Cancelled: In some cases a sponsor announces that it has 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 the absence of a cancellation announcement, a project is considered cancelled if there are no reports of activity over a period of four years.
  • Operating: The plant has been formally commissioned or has 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.

Once wiki pages are created and summary data sets compiled, they are circulated for review to researchers familiar with local conditions and languages.

Carbon dioxide emissions

For each coal plant unit, the tracker calculates carbon dioxide emissions based on the following:

  • unit capacity;
  • emission factor (pounds of carbon dioxide per million Btu) for each type of coal;
  • heat rate for each combustion technology (Btu/kWh), adjusted for quality of coal;
  • capacity factor based on the 2017 worldwide average of 52.8 percent (2018 World Energy Outlook).

CO2 lifetime emissions previously were calculated by multiplying annual CO2 by 40. As of February 2018, we multiply by the estimated remaining years of a coal plant’s life. For a 39-year-old plant, that means we assume one more year of operation. For plants that are 40 years or older, we assume 5 more years of operation.

Further details can be found at “Estimating carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants,” SourceWatch, at


To allow easy public access to the results, Global Energy Monitor worked with GreenInfo Network to develop a map-based and table-based interface using the Leaflet Open-Source JavaScript library. 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 generating units (6,411 out of 6,725).