Two separate reports in the last week are pointing to the futility of trying to rebuild the world’s rapidly-failing coal industry, with the World Bank predicting a drastic drop in world consumption over the next 30 years and even the U.S. Energy Information Administration projecting “several decades” of flat demand.
“The model has been coal plus renewables, the model can be gas plus renewables,” the World Bank’s global head of energy and extractives, Riccardo Puliti, told CNBC. But “I think 10, 12 years from now, we will see renewables and storage and nothing more than that.”
- Concise headlines. Original content. Timely news and views from a select group of opinion leaders. Special extras.
- Everything you need, nothing you don’t.
- The Weekender: The climate news you need.
Over the next 30 years, he added, “we will see that [coal] will go very much out of the energy mix more and more.”
Even though China is reporting a 0.7% rise in coal consumption for 2017, its first increase in four years, Puliti declared himself “extremely happy” with the country’s efforts to combat climate change.
“Beyond that, some nations are well under way in their efforts to combat pollution and promote cleaner, greener technologies,” CNBC reports. “Puliti acknowledged that the technology used in alternative forms of energy can be quite expensive in the beginning, but that costs go down very quickly as penetration increases.”
In the U.S., meanwhile, where the current occupant of the White House is promising a resurgence for “clean, beautiful coal”, his own energy department’s lead statistical agency is predicting little to no growth in domestic demand or net exports through 2050.
The EIA reports U.S. coal generation at 260 gigawatts at the end of 2017, down from a peak of 310 GW in 2010. At anticipates at least 25 GW of additional coal plants retirements between 2018 and 2020, then another 65 GW from 2018 to 2030, with “virtually no retirements” from 2030 through 2050. That projection almost certainly translates into excessively good news for a beleaguered industry from a coal-friendly administration, given the low cost of natural gas, the plummeting cost of renewable energy and energy storage, and determined efforts by U.S. climate hawks to shut down the country’s coal plants one by one.