The World Coal Association (WCA) has called on the World Bank to recognise the vital role of coal in bringing affordable, reliable electricity to hundreds of millions of people in developing and emerging economies.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global electricity from coal is expected to grow by around 33% to 2040. Demand for coal in Southeast Asia alone is expected to increase 4.8% a year through to 2035.
“The reason for this growth is that there are very real energy needs to be met,” says Benjamin Sporton, WCA Chief Executive. “1.3 billion people live in energy poverty. 2.7 billion people do not have clean cooking facilities and rely on dung and wood. Coal plays a critical role in bringing affordable, reliable electricity to hundreds of millions of people in developing and emerging economies, particularly across Asia.
“China is the most obvious example of a country that has developed rapidly using coal. Over the past three decades the country has connected 99% of its population to the grid and seen its economy grow at an astonishing rate. None of this development would have been possible without the use of coal. In fact, if you take China out of the equation, global poverty has barely improved over the past three decades.”
“Rather than wishing away fossil fuels, the World Bank should be committing to supporting the wider deployment of 21st Century coal technology – high efficiency, low emissions power generation and carbon capture, use and storage,” Sporton states.
“High-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) technologies and carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) have the potential to dramatically reduce emissions from coal-fired power generation, while still meeting the demand for coal. Raising the average efficiency of the global coal fleet from the current 33% to 40% would save 2 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions – equivalent to India’s annual CO2 emissions or running the Kyoto Protocol three times over.”
Modern technologies are also available that reduce other emissions from coal plants. “In the United States, emissions of NOx, SOx and PM were reduced by between 82% and 96% since 1970, while coal consumption increased by 146%. This clearly demonstrates the huge potential of off-the-shelf technologies in reducing emissions from coal use,” Sporton outlines.
“All sources of energy have a role to play in meeting demand – both in developed and developing countries. While renewables have an important role to play in providing off-grid electricity to domestic users, it is impossible for an economy to develop without access to affordable, reliable, grid-based electricity.
“It is only by treating climate and development objectives as integrated priorities that we will successfully overcome these global challenges,” Sporton concludes.