Production of coal dropped by a record amount in 2016 according to data from British Petroleum’s (BP) annual review of global energy trends. BP’s data showed a drop in 6.2 percent of global coal production as consumption continues to drop in the US, China, and the UK.
BP’s chief economist, Spencer Dale, argued the decline is due to a number of structural long term factors; including the increasing societal pressure for governments to switch to clean energy, and the growing competitive market in renewables.
Coal is the most polluting fuel and was once the world’s fastest growing energy sources. The fossil fuel has struggled in recent years as the industry is often the target of criticism from governments to environmental advocates. Consumption of coal has shown a pattern of decline in recent years, while natural gas and renewables have grown. Natural gas has proven to be a cleaner burning fuel and is promoted by some of the worlds biggest energy companies.
“The fortunes of coal appear to have take a decisive break from the past. Unless you do something to stop shale gas, which doesn’t appear to be what the [Trump} administration would be keen to do, I find it hard to see how that trend would change,” Spencer Dale said.
China, the worlds biggest energy consumer, burned the least coal in six years, and became the number one producer of renewable energy; managing to lower its emissions of climate warming gases. China’s appetite for energy continues to grow, however the country’s patterns of consumption are changing. In 2016, China’s coal production fell 7.9 percent.
Chinese investors are investing more into clean energy, and coal is looked down upon as the country fights to improve the air quality in their polluted cities. China’s government recently vowed to invest $361 billion is renewables by 2020. As China’s economy begins to evolve towards the service industry, and away from manufacturing, experts expect a continued decline in fossil fuels since services are typically less energy intensive than heavy manufacturing.
“Chinese hunger for energy is being tempered by moves to a more sustainable growth pathway and he rapid expansion of renewables,” Jonathan Marshall, a London based analyst, said.
President Donald Trump’s sought to revive coal, promising to restore lost mining jobs throughout his 2016 campaign. US demand for coal has been declining for the past 11 years, and demand fell by 33.4 million tons of oil equivalent last year. Coal’s decline in the US has been driven by the increasing use of cheap shale gas.
Coal consumption fell in every continent except in Africa. Demand in the EU fell, with German consumption falling 4.3 percent, and British demand falling 52.5 percent. Asian decline of Coal was offset by higher consumption in India and Indonesia; where the fossil fuel is still cheap and easily accessible that utilities prefer it over natural gas.
Solar power consumption grew by 29.6 percent, and wind power grew by 15.6 percent.
“The longer term trends we can see in this data are changing the patterns of demand and the mix of supply as the world works to met the challenge of supplying the energy it needs while also reducing carbon emissions,” BP chief executive Bob Dudley said.
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