The breadth and coverage of analytical expertise in the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs) are unique assets that underpin IEA efforts to support innovation for energy security, economic growth and environmental protection. The 38 TCPs operating today involve about 6 000 experts from government, industry and research organisations in more than 50 countries1.

Clean Coal Centre (CCC TCP)


Reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants

The CCC TCP gathers, assesses and disseminates knowledge on the energy efficient and environmentally sustainable use of coal. High-efficiency low-emissions (HELE) coal-fired power generation plants offer significantly lower carbon intensity than conventional units and are a sound basis for the addition of carbon capture and storage. 

The potential impact of higher-efficiency coal-fired power plants on CO2 emissions.*

Compared to other fuel sources, coal provides an abundant, relatively low-cost fuel for electricity generation. However, unless managed carefully, coal-fired power plants emit pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrous oxide (NOX), particulates, and high levels of greenhouse gases. 

Addressing the environmental issues of coal-fired power generation is therefore a priority, one which can be addressed through a highly efficient combustion process and by reducing the pollutants and emissions. A high-efficiency coal-fired power plant could emit 20% less CO2, would be more reliable, and have a longer life expectancy than older plants. Several countries have established such technologies through the use of energy and environmental policies and regulations.

For these reasons, the CCC TCP examined the potential of high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) technologies for coal fired power plants in the top ten coal-consuming countries: Australia, China, Germany, India, Japan, Poland, Russian Federation (“Russia”), South Africa, South Korea and the United States. The age and efficiency of the existing coal-fired power plants were analysed, together with the rate of economic growth, electricity demand, and the policy and regulatory framework.

A profile of each country to meet future electricity demand was modelled under three scenarios: (1) continuing with the existing fleet, (2) retiring and replacing older plants after 25 years, and (3) retiring and replacing older plants after 50 years. The potential impact of HELE improvements on emissions of CO2 were quantified as well as the costs of implementation.

A number of trends emerged from the analysis.  First, economic considerations will govern the decision to replace a plant unless policies and incentives prompt the earlier selection of HELE technologies. Thereafter, the greatest gains are achieved when the operating life is limited to 25 years (evolving practice in China) rather than 40 years or more (common in OECD countries), especially when HELE plants are combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS). This option could be particularly relevant for India to curb emissions from the rapidly increasing electricity demand.

These results were compiled in the CCC TCP report, Upgrading the Efficiency of the World's Coal Fleet to Reduce CO2 Emissions.

* Graphic adapted from information provided by the CCC CTP


  • CO2 mitigation
  • Coal markets
  • Coal properties and analysis
  • Combustion
  • Conversion and industrial use of coal
  • Country studies
  • Emissions and control
  • Enviornmental policy and legislation
  • Gasification
  • Mining, production and preparation
  • Residues and management
  • Pollution control technologies
  • Power generation
  • Social acceptance
  • Technology implementation


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Contracting Parties  6 1 1
Sponsors - 7 -

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