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In a dramatic reversal, one of the world’s largest coal-fired power plant makers is exiting the market and focusing on greener alternatives.

The US giant General Electric said it would close or sell the sites as it prioritized its renewable energy and power generation businesses.

This comes before the US presidential election in which the candidates adopt starkly different views on coal.

A non-governmental organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the move was “the time”.

GE has said in the past that it will focus less on fossil fuels, reflecting the growing acceptance of clean energy sources into US power grids.

But just five years ago, it struck its biggest deal ever – paying nearly £ 10 billion for a company that produced coal-fired turbines.

Attractive economics

In a statement, the company indicated that the decision was driven by the economy.

“As GE continues to transform, we are focusing on power generation businesses that have attractive economies and a growth path,” said Russell Stokes, Senior Vice President, General Electric.

“As we pursue this exit from the coal-fired power market for new construction, we will continue to support our customers, helping them keep their existing plants running in a cost-effective and efficient manner with the best technology and service experience.

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US President Donald Trump has championed “nice, clean coal” at a time when other developed countries are moving away from polluting fossil fuels.

In an effort to revive a faltering US industry, Trump has rolled back Obama-era standards on coal emissions. But it did not stop the decline as cheaper alternatives such as natural gas, solar and wind energy gained market share.

General Electric said it would continue to service coal-fired power plants, but warned of job losses as a result of its decision.

The company is already cutting up to 13,000 jobs at GE Aviation, which makes aircraft engines, due to the pandemic.

In a tweet, the Natural Resources Defense Council said: “Societies and regulators have called on General Electric to get out of coal for years. This is an important and long overdue step in the right direction to protect the health of communities and the environment.”

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