Coal use in decline despite price rise

Posted on 17 Nov 2016 by Michael Cruickshank

Several new pieces of information have shown coal use is in decline around the world despite its recent price rise.

Most notably, a newly released report has shown that China’s coal use actually peaked in 2013, and has since seen an ongoing reduction.

In its World Energy Outlook 2016, the International Energy Agency (IEA) states that China’s transition away from coal power is now accelerating.

“China remains by far the largest coal consumer and producer, and the projected fall in coal consumption to 2040 transforms the global outlook: barring an unexpectedly dry year for hydropower, Chinese coal use is likely to have peaked in 2013,” the report says.

Another factor contributing to this coal use peak has been the slowdown in China’s manufacturing sector – one the country’s major consumers of coal power.

Elsewhere, in France, coal is also seeing a demise. French President Francoise Hollande announced during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakech that his country would phase out the use of coal power plants by 2023.

Moreover, he claimed that existing plants would be shut, and the country would aim to be carbon neutral by 2040.

This move follows a growing backlash in developed countries against highly polluting coal power, as global efforts to fight climate change begin to coalesce.

Australian coal investment continues

Somewhat paradoxically, the price of coal has spiked in recent months, driven mostly by domestic political factors in China.

Within this environment Australia continues to invest heavily in coal extraction – a key pillar of its economy.

Earlier this year India’s Adani Group was given approval to build a $A21.7bn ($16.1bn) coal mine in Queensland – the country’s largest.

This mine is highly controversial, and has seen large protests from environmental organizations but still receives full support from the Australian government.

In the long run however, given the overall global trend away from coal, the economics of this project may not play out and may prohibit the mine from ever reaching full operation.

Currently, work is set to begin on the Adani Carmichael mine next year.