Clean Power

Published on July 7th, 2014 | by Jake Richardson


Coal Power Still Increasing Globally

July 7th, 2014 by  

If you read a lot of renewable energy news, it seems exciting due to decreasing costs and the new start-ups. However, what might get lost in the mix is the fact the coal power is  increasing, too. It was reported to be the world’s fastest growing fossil fuel last year. The source of this information is British Petroleum’s annual energy review. According to the BP report, renewable energy sources produce about 5% of global energy output,

Image Credit: Staplegunther

“Renewables now account for more than 5% of global power output and nearly 3% of primary energy consumption. The challenge of  sustaining expensive subsidy regimes, however, has become visible where penetration rates are highest, namely the below-average growth of Europe’s leading renewable producers, who are  grappling with weak economic growth and strained budgets.”

Developing areas of the world seem to be driving demand for coal, most likely because it is cheap, says the BP document. In fact, coal hit its highest level of consumption – about 30.1% of the world’s total energy use.

However, a different source says Japan is one of the more enthusiastic investors in coal. The same article says Germany, South Korea and Russia also remain consistent investors in coal. Japan, Germany and Russia are considered G8 countries (Russia has been excluded due to politics) because of their strong economies, so the BP analysis might be a little off, if it says developing regions are the only reason coal is increasing.  South Korea could be seen as ‘developed’ or a step above ‘developing’ so they don’t seem to fit the model of coal expanding and developing either.

Some of the developing countries that need energy to grow their economies and reduce poverty are in Africa and Latin America.

A World Bank executive summarized the situation well, “I’m personally concerned about coal, because I’m concerned about the  future of my children. But, he argued, “some countries cannot provide energy access, particularly in Africa, without coal, and the bank knows that. It would be bizarre to say we’re not going to do coal.”

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Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Google Plus.

  • Bryan McAvoy

    I’d like an informed opinion on this one. The BP report states that “Renewables now account for more than 5% of global power output”, yet the EIA reports that renewables accounted for 21% of electricity production in 2011,

    By “power” I gather they must mean transportation fuel use as well as electricity production? Even so, 5 percent seems low, unless the “power” used in electrical generation is several times less than that used in transportation. I’d just like to know, for future reference, if the fossil fuel industry uses a fundamentally different measure than the renewable industry?

    • Bob_Wallace

      This is all from the same page…

      “EIA estimates that about 11% of world marketed energy consumption is from renewable energy sources (hydropower,biomass, biofuels, wind, geothermal, and solar), with a projection for 15% by 2040.1

      EIA estimates that about 21% of world electricity generation was from renewable energy in 20112, with a projection for nearly 25% in 2040.”

      People frequently mistakenly use “energy” when talking about “electricity”. Energy should include electricity, transportation and heating.

      Even the above quote could be confusing. It talks about “marketed energy consumption”. That leaves out all the energy (firewood, etc.) that never flows through organized markets.

      BTW. I’d recommend taking the EIA 2040 predictions with a very large grain of salt. There is something very amiss with the EIA prediction office.

      • Rick Kargaard

        Yes, many if not most estimations of the impact of renewables includes hydro. This is a huge item and can confuse people easily. After all hydro has been around for a long time and is near saturation.

        The problem with IEA prdictions is not the IEA, but rather points out the difficulty of making accurate predictions. They are often proven wrong because they are courageous enough to make short term predictions that are not forgotten by the time they are proven wrong.

        It is safe to make any kind of prediction for 100, 200 or more years in the future. They will mostly be forgotten and if remembered no one will give a damn

        • Bob_Wallace

          EIA, not IEA. EIA predictions stink. When you’re predicting the cost of wind and solar will be higher in 2017 than it already is something is really amiss.

          • Rick Kargaard

            Sorry, my bad, And I agree with you. I can’t fathom the reasoning behind such a prediction

        • mds

          I take back anything nice I’ve said about you. You put forth FUD constantly.
          Hydro is not near saturation. Run-of-the-river hydro can now be installed with near zero environmental impacts. Hydro has been expanding significantly in China, Africa, and South America.
          IEA predictions stink big time. They continually try to linearize the exponential growth curve of Solar PV. Most recently they made the outrageous prediction that Solar PV production will level off and decline. Sure, based on what? …Koch brother inputs? Solar PV is rapidly becoming our lowest cost source of power. Growth in Solar PV is NOT going to level off. I cannot believe you are defending IEA predictions in any way. Do not do it again! Sheesh!

          • Rick Kargaard

            I was not defending their predictions, I was defending them. Run of the river hydro does not have any great potential and it does have envronmental impacts.
            I don’t believe that more than 5 to 10 percent of any predictions have any value.
            If you act on any prediction, it ceases to have value.
            You must not have much faith in your own arguments, since you constantly resort to personal attacks and hyperbole

          • Bob_Wallace

            A new assessment conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has identified more than 65 gigawatts of untapped hydropower potential in US rivers and streams. The greatest hydropower potential was found in western US states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Wyoming led the rest of the country in new stream-reach hydropower potential.

            *The highest potential was identified in the Pacific Northwest Region (32%), followed by the Missouri Region (15%) and the California Region (9%). In total, the undeveloped NSD capacity is 84.7 GW, and the undeveloped NSD generation is estimated to be 460 TWh/year. When areas protected by federal legislation limiting the development of new hydropower (national parks, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness areas) were excluded from the analysis, the estimated NSD capacity falls to 65.5 GW, slightly lower than the current existing U.S. conventional hydropower nameplate capacity (79.5 GW; NHAAP, 2013).*

            *Undeveloped NSD generation with these areas excluded is estimated to be 347.3 TWh/year, roughly 128% of the average 2002–2011 net annual generation from existing plants (272 TWh/year; EIA, 2013). Since the assessment was designed to identify potential run-of-river projects, NSD stream-reaches have higher capacity factors (53%–71%), especially compared with conventional larger-storage peaking-operation projects that usually have capacity factors of around 30%.*


          • Rick Kargaard

            Your link is biased, but beyond that our rivers are fragile ecosystems, and run of river projects will likely face considerable opposition. That potential identified must also be economically feasible and close enough to the need to justify infrastructure. We have a few of these projects in Canada where we have a lot more water, but they are not significant.
            I might be wrong, but I don’t think the potential is even close to that of solar or for that matter wind

          • Bob_Wallace

            My link is biased? The second and third paragraphs are direct quotes from a report issued by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

            Do you know what the ORNL specializes in? Nuclear energy.

            No, the potential of run of the river hydro does not match that of solar, but someone had stated ” Run of the river hydro does not have any great potential”.

            And if you follow up the links and read a bit you’ll see that environmental problems have been covered.

            Canada has a lot more water? And here I was, thinking that the Mighty Mississippi was in the US. Go figure…. ;o)

          • Rick Kargaard

            Then why did you not link directly to ORNL

            Have you ever seen the Rio Grande or the Colorado when they near the sea. there is basically no water left.


            The mississippi is not so mighty. Although impressive it is only ninth in the world in terms of flow. It is also almost entirely controlled by man.

            The McKensie in Canada is 14th and is almost entirely undeveloped

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s not go nit-picking. Strawberries and raspberries are in season.
            Much tastier….

          • Rick Kargaard

            Sorry. I was nit-picking, but it was fun. We still have a little while to wait for our strawberries and raspberries but I am getting impatient.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You growing any day neutrals like Tri-Stars? They start blooming before it’s done frosting and bear much sooner than June (July, here) bearers.
            And they produce berries all the way to the first hard freeze. I go out every morning for months and get a big handful for my morning cereal.

          • Rick Kargaard

            A late reply, but I am a gardener, and interested. Yes, I usually use both day neutral and june bearing, but we have a rather rigorous climate and this year the spring was unusually late and cold.and everything is two to three weeks behind. I am just now trying raspberries that produce both an early and a late crop, but even they will not be ready for a week or two

          • mds

            Sorry for delay in response. Busy with work.
            You put forth the junk predictions from IEA as if they have some value. Those should be recognized as non-sense by almost anyone. Certainly anyone who visits this site.

            “You must not have much faith in your own arguments, since you constantly resort to personal attacks and hyperbole”
            Person attack? Yes. Wasn’t that a fair assessment? You slumber too much. If you are really pro-renewable energy and anti-AGW then I challenge you to do some homework. Go back to the discussions at these two sites:
            Also, use the discussions at this one.
            Write down all of your “concerns” AND write down all of the reasonable counter arguments. Make an effort to learn what can, and is, being reasonably done …instead of just raising the same “concerns” all the time. An applicable quote: “All we have to fear is fear itself.” I’m an engineer. I build stuff that has to work. I’m always interested in possible “critical path problems”. I do get irritated with those who constantly bring up obvious non-problems, …especially when they don’t try to learn, but just cling to the way things have always been done.
            “hyperbole”? Are you sure?

            “You must not have much faith in your own arguments”
            For the most part I have faith.

            I AM concerned about the recent growth of coal use globally. It’s alarming. I do have faith that Solar PV and Storage will eliminate most of this. You just can’t compete with the low costs for Solar PV and Storage we are beginning to see at the end-of-grid. Look at the numbers and the cost trends. I AM nervous about the timeline for this.

            I AM ALSO concerned about the uptake of EVs/PHEVs. Again, I have faith this will happen, but again am nervous about the timeline. (At least it is happening faster, and will be more complete, than for HEVs.) I very clearly and honestly admitted this to you (without any attack) at one of those links above.

            One last point, I simply disagree with you about the potential for run-of-the-river and about the environmental impacts of the same …and I fish the rivers of Washington state. I like to fish for salmon and steelhead. I don’t want to see damage to those fisheries and have written in favor of removing the Elwa river dams. Come visit Washington State, BC, and Alaska and then tell me there is not potential. Consider tidal as well.
            This is not a major point for me, since there is plenty of renewable power available from Wind and Solar PV to supply all the world’s needs many times over …for now. …and they will be cheaper (end-of-grid!) …and yes, before you get “concerned”, I have run the numbers on this …and yes, it is economical and reasonable to do.

          • A Real Libertarian
          • Bob_Wallace

            Come on, Rick’s a good guy. He’s coming from a different place and bring us good information about fossil fuel extraction while being open to new information about renewables. We can learn from each other.

          • mds

            Sorry for delay in response. Busy with work.

            I am definitely a harsher judge of people than you. We CAN learn from each other. Rick DID provide some good information about fossil fuel extraction. (Thank you Rick!) He does not seem to actually absorb information about renewables. You can read my response to him above. He is a “doubting Thomas” to a ridiculous degree. This is not constructive. I am simply pointing this out. My philosophy on this is: You cannot fix something if nobody points out that it’s wrong. So I’m playing the bad guy. After all, isn’t that what Rick is doing with all his “concerns”? I think I’m being fair. I’m done and no harm intended.

      • mds

        Thanks Bob, I thought 5% renewables was way low. BP is trying to
        downplay renewable growth. Consider the source! Coal is doomed. This
        is a harbinger of lower-cost Solar PV coming:

        “World’s Cheapest Solar Panels Coming In Several Years?” – July 2014
        The cost of Solar PV continues to fall. The cost of Wind too. Low-cost storage is now coming to the market. The days of coals dominance in the electricity market are numbered.

        Coal will not be able to compete with distributed (end-of-grid) Solar PV and distributed low-cost storage. THAT is a prediction based on obvious economic trends! Anyone want to disagree with that? Rick?

  • Ronald Brakels

    A World Bank executive says, “Some countries cannot provide energy access, particularly in Africa, without coal.” I wonder if he realises that dark Africa is just an old timey expression and there aren’t actually any countries there that don’t recieve sunshine? In Australia which has an exisiting electricity grid, existing coal plants, existing coal mining infrastructure, and no need to ever import coal across a national boundry, coal can not compete with wind and solar, so I wonder how much worse the economics of coal must be in places that may not have these things.

    • mds

      Humorously understated. I wonder if he has noticed the equator runs right across Africa, that N. Africa has the Sahara desert (little bit of sun there), and that S. Africa has the Kalahari desert (little bit there too)? This fellow is a tool of the coal industry.
      Let’s see… pay to ship coal and transport across land …or set up solar panels? Wonder if he’s ever traveled in Africa before? Solar is going to be a far more reliable source of power. Grid power is typically not reliable in the developing world. Local solar can provide greater reliability. …and lower cost going forward.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Africa is a big continent. In different parts there are different resources that can be tapped. There’s a lot of geothermal and hydro. And good wind in many places. In fact, we’re learning that there’s good wind in many places where we thought there wasn’t, we just weren’t looking up high enough.

        • mds

          Agree. Also, Kenya is exploiting excellent geothermal resources they have in the Rift Valley.
          Just more good paths up the mountain.

    • Rick Kargaard

      Coal that is close to the surface and underexploited can be very cheaply produced . Especially in countries with low wage structure. I believe the world bank may be talking about investment available for the different technologies. My guess only.
      This may, or may not, be an actual roadblock to solar or wind. Another prediction that I don’t put much faith in.
      It is time we stopped worrying so much about the future and concentrated on improving the present.

      • Bob_Wallace

        It’s not only the cost of fuel, the cost of building a coal plant is high. And, like nuclear, it takes a long time to build a coal plant which means a lot of accumulated interest which drives up the final price.

        Solar and wind, on the other hand, can be installed and brought on line is days, weeks, months. A very large wind farm might take two years to complete but individual turbines can start producing power/income as they are complete. Before the wind farm is complete it can be paying off its loans rather than, in the case of thermal plants, seeing them grow.

        Coal plants are big projects. If one needs power in a less developed country it’s going to be hard to put a large construction project together and keep it running efficiently for years.

        • Rick Kargaard

          It is not that easy to put together huge solar or wind projects either.
          Rooftop is a different matter, but you must consider the incomes in third world countries. It is an option not many could afford.
          Because use of electricity is also very limited in many areas, small boxed solar systems capable of running lights, computers and tv (radios) could have great potential.
          Can we produce some cheaply enough?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Wind and solar don’t have to be huge projects. There are villages and small towns that have installed small solar arrays that let them turn off their diesel generators when the Sun is shining. There are “one turbine” wind farms.

            There’s an incredible world of micro-solar.

            “Over the past decade, since the Bangladesh government launched a rural electrification programme supported by the World Bank and other international aid bodies, the number of off-grid installations in the country has rocketed. In 2002, installations rates stood at 7000; today that figure has exploded to nearly 2 million and counting, with average installation rates now topping 80,000 a month.

            “A typical customer would give a 15% down payment, and then the balance would be made over a period of 24-36 months,” he says. “A typical system would be 50W – for LED lights, a black and white TV connection and mobile phone charger, with four-hour back-up up every day. The cost of everything would be US$300-325, and a household would typically pay US$8-10 for that every month.”

            Moin says that even being able to power these relatively modest appliances makes a big difference to people’s lives. “It’s unbelievable, and until you see it, it’s very difficult to explain. Let’s say you go to a rural remote home and they’re burning kerosene lights, suddenly overnight (because it only takes four hours to install a typical system) that home has proper lights and connection to TV – it’s transformational. And the quality of life keeps on improving – in terms of late hour education, and even in shops, they’re keeping them open later into the night.”

            Although developing this local supply chain has been a key part of the success of the Bangladesh programme, Moin says other countries looking to follow its example should not get too hung up on localisation initially.

            “Do exactly what we did,” Moin advises. “Have the initial pilot phase, don’t worry about localisation, build it up to 40-50,000 installations, and then at the same time make sure the localisation happens as the volume increases. Once you hit 50-100,000 systems in a market, and the market gives you consistently 10-20,000 a month, localisation is absolutely feasible.”

            Moin is already beginning to travel the globe advising other countries on how they could develop a programme along similar lines to Bangladesh’s: “The idea is to show to the world that there are south-to-south models that can be replicated; the traditional model is north-to-south, but we believe there are models, especially with bottom-of-the-pyramid rural energy access needs, which can be done on a south-to-south model. So let’s look forward.”


            That $8 to $10 per month is about what people pay for kerosene and candles for lighting.

            This program is being replicated around the world.

            Here’s a fun solar company we haven’t written about yet — Mera Gao Power. Mera Gao Power builds and operates solar-powered micro grids in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s poorest. The result? Indian households get low-cost lighting and mobile phone charging, many of them for the first time.

            Specifically, households can buy two to four LED lights and a mobile-charging point for $0.50 per week and a one-time setup cost.Mera Gao Power can charge a village of 100 Uttar Pradesh households with just four solar panels and four batteries (which can store the solar energy produced for up to two days).

            Clean Technica

          • Rick Kargaard

            Very good, I will have to read further on this. It follows my thinking a lot. Thanks for the links, Bob.

          • Bob_Wallace
        • Matt

          Coal is so “Cheap” because we allow coal plant owners to shit in the air for free. And then say there power is cheaper. Yes in developing country with no concern for environment or health a company can one and burn coal real “cheap” and the fat that it kills people does not “really” matter right? Yes a bit harsh; but in China right no have not see the sky in 10 days. And China at least has some laws and is trying to make progress. Africa needs to do it’s best to skip the coal road all together. You know that Nuclear is even cheaper, if you remove all safety issues. Just pile the rods under a tank of water. When it gets to hot give someone gloves and have them remove so of the rods.

        • eveee

          Not to mention that a large centralized coal plant needs a well developed, reliable grid. If that does not exist, centralized PP don’t make sense.

  • JamesWimberley

    We haven’t got long to stop coal. One IEA report claims that on m current build plans, the entire global carbon budget for 2 degree warming will be locked in by 2017.

    • Rick Kargaard

      You believe this prediction?

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