Global Energy & CO2 Status Report

The latest trends in energy and emissions in 2017

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Latest trends in coal

Global coal demand rose about 1% in 2017, reversing the declining trend seen over the last two years. This growth was mainly due to demand in Asia, almost entirely driven by an increase in coal-fired electricity generation.

	Coal demand increase	Net growth rate (right axis)
2005-2014	110.1	3.34
2015	-91.8	-2.34
2016	-82.2	-2.14
2017	35.3	0.94
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Global coal demand rose in 2017 by 1% to 3 790 Mtoe after two years of decline, the main change in global energy demand trends last year.

Coal demand decreased by 2.3% in 2015 and 2.1% in 2016, led by lower demand in the power sector in key markets such as China and the United States. The rebound in coal demand in 2017 was driven entirely by an increase in coal-fired electricity generation, which drove up coal demand for power by nearly 3.5% compared to the previous year, while declining global coal use in industry and buildings offset half of the growth in coal use in electricity generation.

Asia accounted for the largest increase in coal demand, up 35 Mtoe relative to 2016. China coal-fired electricity generation increased to meet a 6% growth in electricity demand, even as the economy is moving towards a less energy-intensive model, as discussed in the World Energy Outlook 2017.

Around 15% of the increase in China’s electricity demand was due to higher demand for cooling, driven by a particularly hot summer. (This topic will be the focus of a forthcoming IEA report on how the projected growth in air conditioning usage around the world will affect global electricity demand). Despite continued reductions of coal use in buildings and industry, the growth in the power sector pushed up coal demand in China by 0.3%, after three years of declining demand. Despite this rebound, coal use in China remains below its 2013 peak.

In India, coal demand rose at a slower rate than in 2016, while in other economies in Asia – such as Korea – coal usage increased in the power sector. Demand fell by 1.6% in the United States, and by 0.5% in the European Union, after dropping by around 10% in both cases in 2016, as coal demand for electricity generation stabilised. The decline was insufficient to offset growth in other regions. Despite last year’s uptick, global coal demand remains well below its peak of 3 927 Mtoe in 2014.

The compatibility of coal use with stringent climate goals hinges critically on the development of Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS), as shown in the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario. Some projects are already underway. The Boundary Dam power station in Saskatchewan, Canada, started operations in 2014. In addition, the Petra Nova Carbon Capture project in Houston, Texas was commissioned in 2017. CCUS deployment started in China with the construction of the Yanchang CCUS Project. China accounts for about half of all CCUS projects under serious consideration or planning, including four projects which will apply CCUS to coal-fired power generation.

In addition, in the United States, the 2018 Budget Bill and the extension and expansion of the “45Q” tax credits is expected to provide a significant boost for CCUS investment. This could lead to capital investment on the order of USD 1 billion over the next six years, potentially adding 10 to 30 million tonnes or more of additional CO2 capture capacity. This would increase total global carbon capture capacity by around two-thirds from today’s levels.