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A rebound in global coal demand in 2021 is set to be short-lived

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A global economic recovery in 2021 is expected to drive a short-lived rebound in coal demand following the major drop this year triggered by the Covid-19 crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.

However, there is little sign that the world’s coal consumption is set to decline substantially in the coming years, with rising demand in some Asian economies offsetting declines elsewhere. As coal is by far the single largest source of global energy-related carbon emissions, the trends outlined in the report pose a major challenge to efforts to put those emissions on a path compatible with reaching climate and sustainable energy goals.

The past two years have seen historic falls in global coal demand, led by unprecedented drops in the United States and Europe, says Coal 2020, the latest edition of the IEA’s annual market report on the sector. A 1.8% decline in coal demand in 2019 resulted mainly from weak growth in electricity demand and low natural gas prices. Latest estimates from the IEA suggest coal demand will have plunged by a further 5% in 2020 on the economic fallout from Covid-19.

“The Covid-19 crisis has completely reshaped global coal markets. Before the pandemic, we expected a small rebound in coal demand in 2020, but we have since witnessed the largest drop in coal consumption since the Second World War,” said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s Director of Energy Markets and Security. “The decline would have been even steeper without the strong economic rebound in China – the world’s largest coal consumer – in the second half of the year.”

Based on the assumption of a recovery in the world economy, the IEA report forecasts a 2.6% rise in global coal demand in 2021, driven by higher electricity demand and industrial output. China, India and Southeast Asian economies account for most of the growth, although the United States and Europe may also both see their first increases in coal consumption in nearly a decade. However, global coal demand in 2021 is still forecast to remain below 2019 levels and could be even lower if the report’s assumptions for the economic recovery, electricity demand or natural gas prices are not met.

The rebound in coal demand in 2021 is set to be short-lived, with coal use forecast to flatten out by 2025 at around 7.4 billion tonnes. This would make 2013, when global coal demand reached 8 billion tonnes, coal’s all-time peak. But while coal’s share in both the electricity mix and the overall energy mix are in steady decline, coal use in absolute terms is not set for a rapid decline in the immediate future.

“Renewables are on track to surpass coal as the largest source of electricity in the world by 2025. And by that time, natural gas will likely have taken over coal as the second largest source of primary energy after oil,” said Mr Sadamori. “But with coal demand still expected to remain steady or to grow in key Asian economies, there is no sign that coal is going to fade away quickly.”

The future of coal will largely be decided in Asia. Today, China and India account for 65% of global coal demand. With Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia included, that share rises to 75%. China, which currently accounts for half of the world’s coal consumption, will be especially influential. By 2025, the European Union and United States will account for less than 10% of global coal demand, down from 37% in 2000. This will make the impacts of any further changes in demand in these markets very limited.

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Accelerating private sector investment in large-scale Renewable Energy

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Following its 2020 edition, the Economic Policy Dialogue series (EPD) is back with six new sessions that will run until June 2023. Organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank Group in Tunisia through TERI Trust Fund, these monthly meetings aim to bring together relevant key stakeholders to create a space for constructive, inclusive, and transparent debate, allowing to collectively address the challenges of economic and social reforms facing the country.

The six EPD sessions are organized to foster dialogue on structural reforms and collectively identify practical and operational solutions to facilitate the implementation of reforms needed to address economic and social challenges as well as economic and development priorities.

The first session will be held on Thursday, 24 November 2022, and will focus on “Accelerating private sector investment in large-scale renewable energy.” Through a frank and direct debate, this dialogue session will aim to propose solutions to accelerate the realization of large-scale renewable energy projects, find ways to overcome the identified barriers and propose innovative mechanisms for a win-win partnership to regain investor confidence and catalyze the development of these projects. Accelerating the implementation of these projects is the only way to reduce the energy deficit and contribute to achieving energy transition objectives: energy security, economic competitiveness, social equity, and climate action.

Tunisia’s interests in the energy transition are evident given the country’s increasing energy demand (1.5% per year) and the worsening of the energy deficit. All the while, the country remains, despite the adoption of several forward-looking laws, far from the objectives it had set itself – namely, 30% of renewable energy in the energy mix in 2030.

At the end of each session, proposed in a participatory format, recommendations will be formulated to initiate and fuel reflection on possible national socio-economic reforms. These reforms aim to improve access to regional development, youth employability, and economic and financial inclusion within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework.

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World Bank Group Announces International Low-Carbon Hydrogen Partnership

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Today, on Energy Day at COP27, the World Bank Group announced the creation of the Hydrogen for Development Partnership (H4D), a new global initiative to boost the deployment of low-carbon hydrogen in developing countries.

H4D will help catalyze significant financing for hydrogen investments in the next few years, both from public and private sources. The partnership will foster capacity building and regulatory solutions, business models, and technologies toward the roll out of low-carbon hydrogen in developing countries.   Through H4D, developing countries will gain further access to concessional financing and technical assistance to scale up hydrogen projects. 

“Low-carbon hydrogen can have a significant role in countries seeking to accelerate their clean energy transition,” said David Malpass, President of the World Bank Group. “Our new hydrogen partnership will enable developing countries to prepare low-carbon hydrogen projects and boost energy security and resilience for their people while lowering emissions.”

Low-carbon hydrogen offers a solution to decarbonize heavy industries that produce more than 25 percent of global CO2 emissions, for which there is presently no viable alternative to fossil fuels. Low-cost, low-carbon hydrogen fuel can become a viable replacement for diesel in transportation. Hydrogen also has the potential to provide long-term energy storage options and bolster the reliability of renewable energies with variable outputs, like solar photovoltaics and wind.

For low- and middle-income countries, low-carbon hydrogen has the potential to generate export revenues, creating a value-added export sector that generates jobs for skilled labor and helps promote food security, since hydrogen can be used to produce ammonia, a key component of fertilizers.  It can also generate energy capacity to meet local needs, including decarbonizing in-country manufacturing and smelting sectors, and provide energy access to remote populations.

The main activities of the H4D partnership, to be hosted in the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) of the World Bank, will include:

  • Convening international cooperation to increase the knowledge base in low-carbon hydrogen technologies for developing countries.
  •  Building capacities by following a global public goods approach.
  • Understanding requirements from emerging markets and the private sector for the deployment of low-carbon hydrogen and its derivatives.
  • Creating opportunities to inform innovation and for new technologies to gain visibility.
  • Generating policy dialogue on enabling the deployment of low-carbon hydrogen across countries.
  • Fostering collaboration with private sector partners for clean hydrogen projects.
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EU leaders accuse US natural gas producers of profiteering

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European leaders are unhappy with natural gas prices. Some leaders are insisting that the EU impose a price cap on all natural gas imports, regardless of origin, – notes Oilprice.com.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron accused the United States of a “double standard” because of the difference between the price at which liquefied natural gas produced in the U.S. sells in Europe and the price at which natural gas sells within the U.S.

“The North American economy is making choices for the sake of attractiveness, which I respect, but they create a double standard,” Macron said, also adding that “they allow state aid going to up to 80% on some sectors while it’s banned here – you get a double standard.”

He wasn’t alone among European national leaders in being unhappy about gas prices. In fact, as many as 15 leaders were unhappy, and they insisted that the EU imposes a price cap on all natural gas imports, regardless of origin.

Now, the U.S. is striking back at the accusations.

“What’s happening is the companies that hold those long-term contracts with US LNG producers, they’re marking that up and earning that margin in the European market,” Brian Crabtree, an assistant secretary at the Department of Energy, – told the Financial Times. “It’s not the US LNG company, it’s basically European-headquartered international oil companies and traders.”

Indeed, producers of liquefied natural gas do not invariably sell their product directly to the consumer, in the face of a country in Europe, for instance, They work with commodity majors such as Vitol and Trafigura, or the supermajors, including BP and Shell.

This is not to say that LNG producers are not benefiting from the much stronger demand for LNG from Europe. And this is exactly the reason they have been benefiting, in the form of higher profits: demand has surged, and when demand surges, prices follow, especially if supply is not growing as fast as demand.

In other words, Europe seems to want businesses to not act as businesses and take every opportunity to make a profit, which is what businesses are all about.

Be that as it may, a Ministry of Energy analyst, told the FT that the U.S. was committed to helping Europe get enough gas “at a price that is affordable to the continent.” It’s hardly a surprise he did not go into detail on how this affordable price would be achieved.

…This is a free market, isn’t it?

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