For many countries coal is the fuel of choice because it is easily accessible, affordable and reliable, he told the Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre Annual Conference in Tokyo.
“It helps build strong competitive economies,” he said.
Southeast Asia, a key part of the APEC region, is forecast to see coal demand growth of 4.8% a year through to 2035, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA also estimates electricity from coal in China, a major APEC economy, is forecast to grow to 5545TWh in 2040 compared to 3812TWh today.
The conference also heard from government representatives and energy experts that coal is expected to remain the dominant source of electricity in the APEC region through to the 2040.
“The huge role that coal is playing, and is forecast to play, in the APEC region for decades to come highlights the imperative of international action on cleaner coal technologies,” Sporton said.
“High efficiency, low emission coal-fired power generation can provide significant near term emission reduction benefits and is a key first step on the pathway to deploying carbon capture and storage.
“Without international support for cleaner coal technologies in the APEC region it will be all the more difficult to achieve global climate ambitions.”
He also highlighted the importance of modern coal technology in reducing other emissions from coal, noting that “in the US, emissions of NOx, SOx and PM were reduced by between 82 and 96% since 1970, while coal consumption increased by 146%, pointing to the ability of technology to address concerns over air pollution”
Sporton also called for carbon capture and storage to be given policy parity with other low emission sources of energy highlighting that “feed in tariffs, power purchase agreements and contracts are all tools that can be deployed”
“Furthermore, greater political commitment is needed to making carbon capture and storage a reality in the region. The APEC region has seen the world’s first large commercially operating coal-fired power plant operating at Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan, Canada. The learnings from that plant can be applied elsewhere in the region to drive down the costs of CCS and help further deployment,” Sporton said.