High Coal Demand Expected Through at Least 2024, Says International Energy Agency

Published January 27, 2020

Global demand for coal has risen since 2017 and is expected to remain stable or rise slightly for the next five years, supported by the resilient Chinese market which accounts for half of global consumption, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2019 report on global coal use states.

The IEA found global coal demand increased 1.1 percent and coal production increased 3.3 percent in 2018, continuing rebounds that began in 2017 after three years of decline.

No Collapse Expected

“Expectations of an imminent coal collapse have come and gone before,” IEA’s report states. Global coal consumption declined from 1997 through 1999, followed by a 75 percent increase in global coal use from 2000 through 2013, a larger growth in use than had occurred over the entirety of the previous 90 years.

“A similar upsurge is not expected in today’s context, but neither is a sudden plunge,” IEA’s report states.

The IEA study found coal-generated electric power production rose by almost 2 percent in 2018, reaching an all-time high, led by growth in China, India, and other growing Asian markets.

Global Demand to Increase

IEA’s 2019 report predicts global coal demand will rise from 5,437 megatons of coal equivalent (Mtce) in 2019 to 5,645 Mtce by 2024, a higher rise in Mtce than IEA forecast in its 2018 report for the same time period.

This increase is expected to occur despite a steady decline in coal demand in the United States, driven largely by the shale gas boom, the report says. The report projects demand for coal will decline by approximately 4 percent per year in the United States through 2024. Coal use as a percentage of electrical generation reached an all-time high of 50 percent in the United States in 2007, only to decline to 28 percent by 2018. IEA forecasts U.S. electricity generation from coal will fall to 21 percent by 2024.

IEA predicts declining coal use in the United States and Europe will be more than offset by growing demand in China, India, and South Asian countries, led by Indonesia and Vietnam, where coal use is expected to surge 5 percent per year through 2024.

Coal ‘Wonderful, Safe, and Inexpensive’

Using relatively inexpensive coal for electricity production helps the poorest people in developed and developing countries alike, says Jay Lehr, Ph.D., a senior policy analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition.

“Coal is a wonderful, safe, and inexpensive energy source helping to improve the living standards for the poorest peoples around the world,” Lehr said. “It is good to see an uptick in the reliance of coal.

“The burning of coal and all other fossil fuels has no impact whatever on the thermostat of the Earth,” Lehr said. “The burning of all the world’s fossil fuels has elevated the amount of carbon dioxide from three ten-thousandths of a per cent of the Earth’s atmosphere to four ten-thousandths of a percent of the atmosphere, an amount which is surely irrelevant to the global climate.”

Kevin Stone ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas