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A surprisingly sustainable case for coal?

World Coal recently published an article by Glenn Kellow that challenges the prevailing extreme green narrative that coal is evil.

Key Points:

  • The story of global energy is not one of good vs evil. It is a tale of the pursuit of two ‘goods’ – affordable, reliable energy and reduced emissions.
  • Technology has been the proven answer, and we have the opportunity to continue to use technology to drive down emissions.
  • Ironically, in the face of growing demand, activism and divestment initiatives that limit supply growth, reward coal asset owners through higher prices.

Kellow bombards the reader with facts on coal:

  • The world uses some 8 billion tpy of coal
  • In 2018, global coal-fuelled generating capacity topped 2000 GW
  • 300 GW of new coal-fuelled generation is under construction in Asia alone – more than the entire existing US coal fleet
  • More than 40 nations have added coal-fuelled generation since 2010
  • Steelmaking consumes 1 billion tpy of coal
  • Coal provides about 70% of the energy to create cement

Then he pummels us with facts on the often-overlooked positive social impact of coal:

  • Life expectancy, educational attainment and income all correlate with per capita electricity use
  • More of the world’s electricity is fuelled by coal than any other source
  • Between 1990 and 2010, about 1.7 billion people gained access to electricity. For every 1 person who gained access owing to solar and wind energy, 13 gained access thanks to coal
  • 1 billion people – nearly 15% of the world’s population - lack access to electricity
  • Around 3 billion people rely on primitive biomass, which would be some 1000 times cleaner if coal-based electrification was used

Not to be outdone, he runs through the tremendous advances in cleaning up the environmental impact of coal:

  • Since 1970, US emissions from coal have been reduced 82% - and that is even while coal consumption has risen by 146%
  • Globally, the average efficiency of coal-fuelled power plants today is 35%. Raising that average by 5 points, to 40%, would reduce global emissions by 2 gigatonnes – or the equivalent of India’s annual total
  • 24 countries, accounting for over half of global coal power emissions, have included advanced coal technologies in their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement

Coal is projected to decline in its rate of growth, but this entails an absolute increase in coal demand through 2030.

In lieu of high-quality black coal, many emerging nations will continue to rely on lower-quality brown coal, which emits more CO2 per unit of power generated.

For those nations who turn to brown coal for affordable, reliable energy production, technological solutions such as Coldry can help mitigate CO2 emissions.

To be environmentally sustainable a solution must first be economically sustainable.

And, as Kellow summarises:

...the coal industry of course faces multiple challenges. The twist here is that within our challenges may be embedded opportunities.

Those opportunities present themselves for those of us with the wherewithal to remain financially sound, to manage well, to insist on responsible mining, and to encourage advanced technologies to continually reduce emissions.


The surprisingly sustainable case for coal

21 March 2019 | Glenn Kellow | World Coal

Amid a fuel that is so often miscast as a Hollywood villain, Glenn Kellow briefly lays out what he would call the surprisingly sustainable case for coal, with three key observations...

Source: The surprisingly sustainable case for coal | World Coal