Coal will remain the major fuel for electricity production through at least 2020, driven by substantial additions of new coal-fired capacity in Asia, according to a report by McIlvaine Company. In 2020, McIlvaine says coal will account for 50 percent more installed capacity than nuclear and gas.

McIlvaine says China has been the biggest factor in the growth of coal, as it has more coal-fired power plants than the U.S. and Western Europe combined. Meanwhile, India is expected to enjoy the largest percentage growth in coal-fired power plants, with its capacity slated to double to 300,000 MW by 2020.

McIlvaine says the growth rates for wind and solar will exceed those of fossil and nuclear energy sources, but since the growth is from a small base, the total expenditures will be relatively small compared to coal.

All large coal-fired power plants scheduled to be built in the next decade will be high efficiency, according to McIlvaine. For example, the new Chinese ultra-supercritical plants emit 30 percent less CO2 than the average coal-fired power plant in the U.S. China has invested more for pollution control than any other country. Nevertheless, it is still the largest polluter because of the emissions from some of its older plants.