Coal in demand more than ever – IEA

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Output and sales are forecast to reach record highs by the end of 2023

Worldwide demand for coal is set to reach a historic high this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its ‘Coal 2023’ report on Friday.

The body sees global demand for the fuel rising 1.4% by the end of 2023, surpassing 8.5 billion tons for the first time on record, largely due to soaring coal consumption in emerging and developing economies. For instance, in India and China, it is expected to grow by 8% and 5%, respectively, largely driven by a growing demand for electricity amid insufficient hydropower production.

Production of the fossil fuel is also set to reach a historic high this year, with China, India, and Indonesia – the three largest coal producers that account for 70% of the world’s supply – expected to jointly bring output to more than 2.5 billion tons. Global coal trade is also expected to mark a new record-high, driven by strong growth in Asia.

Starting next year, however, coal use is expected to drop, especially in advanced economies, amid the expansion of renewable energy capacity. The growing use of renewables is expected to be especially notable in China, which at the moment accounts for more than half of global coal demand, according to the agency. By 2026, the IEA sees global coal demand falling by 2.3% compared with 2023 levels.

READ MORE: US commits to ditching coal

Overall, the agency predicts that the upcoming shift in coal use will be more significant and long-lasting this time around than in previous periods.

We have seen declines in global coal demand a few times, but they were brief and caused by extraordinary events such as the collapse of the Soviet Union or the Covid-19 crisis. This time appears different, as the decline is more structural, driven by the formidable and sustained expansion of clean energy technologies,” Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA Director of Energy Markets and Security, said. The analyst noted that while significant efforts are still needed to meet international climate targets, “a turning point for coal is clearly on the horizon.”

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