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,
“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.”