The planet’s coal consumption is projected to hit an all-time high this year: IEA

Workers photographed on a train loaded with coal in China. According to the International Energy Agency, global consumption of coal is expected to increase by 1.2% this year, reaching a record high.

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According to a report by the International Energy Agency, global coal consumption will increase by 1.2% this year and hit a record high.

It comes at a time of significant volatility and uncertainty in global energy markets, with the IEA stating that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 “greatly changed the dynamics of coal trading, price levels, and supply and demand patterns in 2022.”

“Coal markets were hit hard in 2022 as traditional trade flows were disrupted, prices soared and demand is expected to grow 1.2%, hitting an all-time high and exceeding 8 billion tonnes for the first time,” the IEA said in their report, Coal Report 2022, published on 12.16.

The price of fossil fuels has increased significantly this year, the agency said, “with natural gas seeing the biggest increase.”

“This has sparked a wave of fuel switching away from gas, spurring demand for more price-competitive options, including coal in some regions,” she added.

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Despite rising coal demand, the picture is complex. The IEA found that “higher coal prices, strong deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and weaker global economic growth are dampening overall coal demand growth this year.”

Coal use in power generation is expected to increase by just over 2% this year. Coal consumption in industry is even projected to fall by more than 1%, with the fall being due to lower steel and iron production.

“The world is nearing a peak in fossil fuel consumption, with coal being the first to decline, but we’re not there yet,” Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s director of energy markets and security, said in a statement. “Demand for coal is stubborn and is likely to hit an all-time high this year, driving up global emissions.”

“At the same time, there are many signs that today’s crisis is accelerating the deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency and heat pumps – and this will dampen coal demand for years to come,” he added.

Government policy is “key to ensuring a safe and sustainable way forward,” he said.

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The use of coal has significant environmental impacts, with environmental organization Greenpeace calling it “the dirtiest and most polluting way of generating energy”.

The US Energy Information Administration, meanwhile, lists a range of emissions from coal burning, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.

The debate about coal and its further use remains explosive. Just this month, the UK government gave the green light to plans for a deep coal mine in north-west England, a decision that drew both approval and criticism.

uncertainty ahead

The IEA report painted a picture of uncertainty for the future.

It forecast that global coal demand will stagnate near 2022 levels of 8 billion tonnes through 2025, but noted that “given the current energy crisis, with all its uncertainties, a slump in growth or contraction is possible.”

According to Eurostat, in 2021 Russia was the largest supplier of natural gas and oil to the European Union. EU exports of Russian gas have suffered this year, prompting major European economies to scramble to secure supplies for the colder months.

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