Dec 17, 2019

IEA forecasts rising global coal consumption until 2024

After briefly declining as the Paris Climate Agreement was finalized in 2015, global coal consumption is now poised to keep growing — albeit only slightly, according to a new International Energy Agency forecast.

Data: Reproduced from IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals

Flashback: A three-year decline also coincided with the world's other major climate accord, the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed in 1997. Following that dip, which was caused in part by the Asian financial crisis and other factors, coal consumption rose to new heights — the planet's current status quo.

  • "A similar upsurge is not expected in today's context, but neither is a sudden plunge," IEA notes in the report that looks out to 2024.
  • The Kyoto Protocol sought to commit developed countries to reducing their high greenhouse gas emissions. It did not set a global target for limiting Earth's temperature rise, which the Paris Agreement does.

The big picture: In 2018, the world consumed 1.1% more coal than in 2017. The IEA forecasts that coal demand in China, by far the world's biggest coal consumer and producer, will peak in 2022, then slowly decline. Global coal consumption is expected to plateau after 2024 — but China will ultimately determine global trends.

Where it stands: China and India consumed more coal in 2018 than in 2017, but total coal consumption in the U.S. decreased by 4.3%. Consumption dropped in the EU by 5.1%.

  • Renewable energy generation — hydro and wind in the EU, and wind and solar in the U.S. — largely drove reduced coal consumption.
  • The shale natural gas boom and subsequent low gas prices also affected the drop in the U.S.

One level deeper: Coal is still the planet's second-largest energy source after oil and is very profitable, as average prices last year stood 60% higher than in 2016. It also accounts for over 40% of energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide.

The bottom line: Despite talk among climate change activists and some politicians that coal is past its prime, it remains king at the global level.

Go deeper: Global carbon emissions rise again — but more slowly

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U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by estimated 2.1% in 2019

Power lines in California in 2019. Photo: Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.1% in 2019 due to a decrease in national coal consumption, according to estimates from the Rhodium Group released Tuesday.

Why it matters: Power generated from coal plants fell by a record 18%, and overall emissions from the power section declined by almost 10% — despite an increase in emissions from natural gas.

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The decade that blew up energy predictions

Illustration: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

America’s energy sources, like booming oil and crumbling coal, have defied projections and historical precedents over the last decade.

Why it matters: It shows how change can happen rapidly and unexpectedly, even in an industry known to move gradually and predictably. With a new decade upon us, let’s look back at the last one’s biggest, most surprising energy changes.

Go deeperArrowDec 23, 2019

10 energy and climate issues to watch in 2020

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

From presidential politics to China to oil prices, here’s what I’m watching this year.

The big picture: A few key decisive moments this year will help determine whether concerns over climate change — rising since my last two annual outlook columns — will translate into action that would transform our global energy system.

Go deeperArrowJan 6, 2020