In a dramatic reversal, one of the world’s biggest makers of coal-fired power plants is to exit the market and focus on greener alternatives.
US industrial giant General Electric said it would shut or sell sites as it prioritised its renewable energy and power generation businesses.
It comes ahead of a US Presidential election in which the candidates hold starkly different views on coal.
NGO the Natural Resources Defense Council said the move was “about time”.
GE has said in the past it would focus less on fossil fuels, reflecting the growing acceptance of cleaner energy sources in US power grids.
But just five years ago, it struck its biggest ever deal – paying almost £10bn for a business that produced coal-fuelled turbines.
In a statement, the firm suggested the decision had been motivated by economics.
Russell Stokes, GE’s senior vice president, said: “With the continued transformation of GE, we are focused on power generation businesses that have attractive economics and a growth trajectory.
“As we pursue this exit from the new build coal power market, we will continue to support our customers, helping them to keep their existing plants running in a cost-effective and efficient way with best-in-class technology and service expertise.”
US President Donald Trump has championed “beautiful, clean coal” at a time when other developed countries are turning away from polluting fossil fuels.
In a bid to revive the struggling US industry, Mr Trump has rolled back Obama-era standards on coal emissions. But it has not stopped the decline as cheaper alternatives such as natural gas, solar and wind gain market share.
GE said it would continue to service existing coal power plants, but warned jobs could be lost as a result of its decision.
The firm is already cutting up to 13,000 job cuts at GE Aviation, which makes jet engines, due to the pandemic.
In a tweet, the Natural Resources Defense Council said: “Communities and organizers have been calling on GE to get out of coal for years. This is an important and long overdue step in the right direction to protect communities’ health and the environment.”
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