In an increasingly carbon-constrained policy environment, political activists are assertive in their war on coal mining's role as the source of 30% of global primary energy consumption and 40% of globally generated electricity. However a new report states that government policy should value the increased use of renewable energies alongside the continued use of coal, not as competition but as partners, particularly with flexible coal power plants balancing the relatively unpredictable feed-in of wind and solar energy.
|Coal mining - source of 40% of globally generated electricity. Photo: Benutzer:Stahlkocher|
The World Coal Association (WCA), representing major international coal producers and stakeholders, has welcomed the publication of the report "The Role of Coal for Energy Security in World Regions” by the Coal Industry Advisory Board (CIAB) to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
WCA Chief Executive Benjamin Sporton commented: “As the Paris Agreement is formally adopted, it is vitally important that its implementation integrates environmental imperatives with the aims of universal access to energy, energy security and social and economic development.”
The report identifies the impact of coal utilisation on energy security in regions covering two-thirds of total global energy consumption and more than 85% of global coal demand. The role of coal in each respective economy and its contribution to energy security is investigated and compared between the regions and countries:
- Coal is a key component of a secure energy supply in all the regions/countries covered. The use of coal contributes not only to affordable energy prices, allowing broader access to electricity but also improved industrial competitiveness of the economy.
- Applying advanced coal-based technologies, high-efficiency low-emission (HELE) coal plants and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, contributes to improving not only the environmental impacts but also leads to increased security of supply. HELE coal technologies provide significant immediate CO2 emission reductions and are a key step on the pathway to CCS.
- Coal-fired power plants provide dispatchable capacity due to their ability to operate flexibly and compensate for the fluctuations of wind and solar energy supply sources. In addition, coal-fired power plants provide cost-efficient reserve capacity which is needed when there is insufficient wind or solar power and to balance out transmission congestion.
- There is no trade-off between an increased use of renewable energies and the use of coal: rather, coal and renewables complement each other and are partners in the effort to meet present and future energy requirements.
- Coal-fired power plants can also be seen as an economic balance to the higher system costs of most renewable energies and complementary to achieve a stable and secure power supply.
The study recommends that governments support and promote HELE coal-fired plants and CCS technologies for significant, immediate CO2 emission reduction – and to also provide the legal framework for the long term investment in production capacity and clean coal use necessary to support the central targets of energy and climate policy.
Each section of the report can be downloaded by clicking on the following links:
Dr Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer, who lead the work group and oversaw all aspects of the report, emphasised that coal and renewables complement each other and are partners in the effort to meet present and future energy requirements: “Coal-fired power plants provide dispatchable capacity due to their ability to operate flexibly and so compensate for the fluctuations of wind and solar energy supply. In addition, coal-fired power plants can also be seen as an economic balance to the higher system costs of most renewable energies.”