Coal Will Remain World’s Largest Source of Electricity Through 2024

Mining in the Jharia coalfield, the largest coal reserve in India.

Mining in the Jharia coalfield, the largest coal reserve in India. Tripod Stories/Wikimedia Commons

Global demand for coal is expected to remain largely stable through 2024, driven by robust economic growth and the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Asia, particularly in China and India, according to new data from the International Energy Agency. The trend comes despite declines in coal usage in the United States and Europe and the continued adoption of renewable energy, Bloomberg and Reuters reported.

“Despite the growth in low-carbon fuels in recent decades, the reality is coal remains a major fuel in global energy markets … the world consumes 65 percent more coal today than in the year 2000,” the EIA report says.

India, for instance, aims to become a $5 trillion economy by 2024, which will increase its demand for electricity. The country is investing heavily in renewable energy, with wind capacity expected to double and solar capacity to increase four-fold in the next five years. But as the IEA notes, India is also expected to increase its coal-fired power generation 4.6 percent each year over the same period. Coal demand elsewhere in Southeast Asia is also expected to grow by more than 5 percent per year through 2024, led by Indonesia and Vietnam.

In China, currently the world’s biggest coal producer and consumer, demand for coal will increase over the next few years before eventually plateauing around 2022.

“Coal power capacity outside Asia is clearly declining and will continue to do so in the coming years,” Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s director of energy markets and security, said in a statement. “But this is not the end of coal, since demand continues to expand in Asia. The region’s share of global coal power generation has climbed from just over 20 percent in 1990 to almost 80 percent in 2019, meaning coal’s fate is increasingly tied to decisions made in Asian capitals.”