Global coal demand growth will slow in the five years through 2019 as China, the world’s biggest consumer of the fuel, takes steps to cut energy intensity and diversify supply, according to the International Energy Agency.
Coal use will increase by 2.1 percent a year through 2019 to 6.5 billion metric tons of coal equivalent, less than the 2.3 percent growth predicted last year for the five years through 2018, the Paris-based agency said in its Medium-Term Coal Market Report. Demand growth of 2.4 percent in 2013 was greater than the increase for oil and natural gas, consolidating coal’s position as the second-largest energy source behind oil, it said.
Asian nations including China and India will be the main engines of growth in the period to 2019, offsetting declines in coal consumption in Europe and the U.S., where regulations capping emissions of greenhouse gases are shutting coal-fired power plants, the IEA said. India is forecast to pass the U.S. as the world’s second-biggest coal user by 2019.
“We have heard many pledges and policies aimed at mitigating climate change, but over the next five years they will mostly fail to arrest the growth in coal demand,” Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the IEA, said in an e-mailed statement. “New plants are being built, but too many of these are based on decades-old technology.”
China’s coal use will rise 2.6 percent to 4.6 billion tons in 2019 while India will see annual growth of 4.8 percent to 1 billion tons, according to the report.
Demand for coal in countries in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development is forecast to decline by 0.6 percent a year to 1.4 billion tons of coal equivalent in 2019. U.S. demand is expected to decline by 1.7 percent a year to 561 million tons of coal equivalent as older plants are retired and after President Barack Obama announced measures to curb emissions, the IEA said.
“Despite the image of a dying industry, coal is still the backbone of electricity generation worldwide and produces more than 40 percent of power,” the agency said. “Coal is abundant and affordable, it is easy to transport and there are no geopolitical issues in the supply chain.”
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