Coal power is on track to hit a new global record this year after an economic rebound that could drive worldwide coal demand to an all-time high in 2022, according to the InternationalEnergyAgency.
The amount of electricity generated from coal power plants has soared by 9% this year after a surge in fossil fuel demand to fuel the recovery from Covid lockdowns, a report by the watchdog says.
Coal power fell by 4% in 2020 as the pandemic caused a global economic slowdown, but the IEA found that demand for electricity this year had outpaced the growth in low-carbon sources, leading many wealthy economies to rely more heavily on fossil fuel power plants.
A global gas supply crunch, which has caused record-high prices worldwide, has also helped reignite demand for coal, the IEA report says.
Fatih Birol, the IEA executive director, said: “Coal is the single largest source of global carbon emissions, and this year’s historically high level of coal power generation is a worrying sign of how far off track the world is in its efforts to put emissions into decline towards net zero. Without strong and immediate actions by governments to tackle coal emissions – in a way that is fair, affordable and secure for those affected – we will have little chance, if any at all, of limiting global warming to 1.5C.”
The IEA report found India was on track to grow its coal-fired electricity generation by 12% this year, while China’s use of coal plants was forecast to increase by up to 9% despite a sharp slowdown in recent months. This would mark an all-time high in both countries, despite an “impressive” rollout of solar and wind power projects, the IEA said. In the US and the EU, coal power generation is expected to rise by 20%, from low levels in 2020. In the UK, where coal power has been in steady decline in recent years, the owners of the last remaining coal power stations were paid record sums to help keep the lights on this year as electricity prices reached new highs after record gas market prices and one of the least windy summers since 1961.