Coal the solution for emerging economies' energy: WCA

THE World Coal Association (WCA) is lobbying the World Bank to recognise the role of coal in bringing affordable, reliable electricity to hundreds of millions of people in developing and emerging economies.

Lou Caruana

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, WCA CEO Benjamin Sporton said.

“The reason for this growth is that there are very real energy needs to be met,” he said. “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 said.

“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 carbon dioxide emissions – equivalent to India’s annual carbon dioxide emissions or running the Kyoto Protocol three times over,” he said.

All sources of energy have a role to play in meeting demand – both in developed and developing countries, according to Sporton.

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,” he said.

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