The world is on track to consume a record amount of coal this year as countries grapple with a global energy crisis.
Global coal use is set to increase by 1.2% in 2022, a marginal increase from last year but enough to surpass 8 billion tons for the first time and beat the previous record set in 2013, according to a Friday report from the International Energy Agency, a policy advisory group to 31 member countries.
A tight supply of natural gas and higher gas prices have pushed more countries to turn toward coal, according to the report. Weather and weak nuclear power generation also played a role.
Although coal is a relatively cheap way to generate power, it is also the world’s largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Is coal use declining?
IEA expects global coal consumption will remain at similar levels through 2025 as demand remains robust in emerging Asian countries.
Europe’s shift toward coal is expected to be temporary as it turns toward more renewable resources. Last year, negotiators at the United Nations called for the “phase down” of coal power and said clean energy power needed to be scaled up.
“Europe, which has been heavily impacted by Russia’s sharp reductions of natural gas flows, is on course to increase its coal consumption for the second year in a row,” the report says. “However, by 2025, European coal demand is expected to decline below 2020 levels.”
Keisuke Sadamori, director of energy markets and security at the IEA, said there are “many signs” that today’s crisis is accelerating the deployment of renewables, energy efficiency and heat pumps, which will help moderate coal demand in the future.
Which country consumes the most coal?
China is “by far” the largest coal consumer, accounting for 53% of global demand last year, according to IEA. India accounted for about 13%, while the European Union and U.S. each accounted for about 6%.
Coal demand is expected to increase the most in India by 7% in 2022, followed by the European Union at 6% and China at 0.4%.
Coal consumption is expected to decline by 6% in the U.S. as the country shifts from coal- to gas-fired power generation.
‘The world is close to a peak in fossil fuel use’
The uptick in coal usage is expected to push up global emissions, Sadamori said.
“The world is close to a peak in fossil fuel use, with coal set to be the first to decline, but we are not there yet,” Sadamori said in a release. “Government policies will be key to ensuring a secure and sustainable path forward.”
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