Global coal demand is expected to remain strong in 2023. 


  • According to the IEA Coal 2022 report, coal demand is forecast to grow by 1.2 percent in 2022, reaching an all-time high and surpassing 8 billion tons for the first time. 
  • Lack of natural gas from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the main reason for the increase in coal demand, because coal use in electricity production grew by 2%.
  • Although Europe can reduce its dependence on coal by 2025, the demand for this Asian energy source seems to increase in the coming years.
Despite bold climate pledges from many of the world’s major  powers,  many seem unable to break their dependence on coal as consumption is poised to hit an all-time high (again). Several countries have launched climate strategies that include  phasing out  coal production and use over the coming decades, but with gas shortages and a long wait for renewable energies to meet global demand, many continue to rely on coal for power generation and industry. 
Although coal use is expected to decline in the long term and be replaced by natural gas and renewables, demand is expected to remain strong in 2023. 
This month, a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that coal consumption is expected to rise. grow to an all-time high and remain stable between 2022 and 2025 unless the transition to cleaner alternatives accelerates. Coal consumption was forecast to grow by 1.2 percent in 2022, an all-time high. In its report on Coal 2022, the IEA highlighted the shortage  of gas and its high price as the main reason for Europe’s continued dependence on coal. 
Coal use is increasing despite a decrease in iron and steel of around one percent, as the global economic crisis has meant a reduction in production. But without the wind or solar  capacity  to meet demand, Europe has turned back to coal to meet its needs, with  coal used for power generation expected to grow by 2 percent this year. 
The IEA’s expectations for the leveling off of coal demand over the next three years are based on the expected transition from coal to cleaner energy alternatives and the expected increase in coal use in developing Asian economies. As many countries around the world make ambitious climate pledges and invest heavily in renewable energy in an attempt to reduce their economies’ CO2 emissions, coal remains by far the largest  source of CO2 emissions, according to the IEA. Keisuke Sadamori, director of energy markets and security at the IEA, noted: “The world is close to maximum use of fossil fuels, and coal is expected to be the first to decline, but we are not there yet.” 
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February this year changed predictions about energy use in Europe and the rest of the world, when important oil and gas supplies were suddenly cut off, as several countries imposed sanctions on Russian energy. Many European countries that had hoped to make progress in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources suddenly found themselves struggling for their energy security and turned to unlikely sources such as coal and nuclear power. 
Additional global power demand and generation by source, 2022-2025-IEA
The IEA report said: “A major shock will hit the coal market in 2022: traditional trade flows will be disrupted, prices will rise sharply and demand will increase by 1.2 percent, reaching an all-time high and exceeding 8 billion tons for the first time. 
  • Environmentalists are deeply concerned about the continued dependence on coal, which emits not only carbon dioxide  but also sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Scientists consider coal to be a major obstacle to limiting global warming and a major factor in climate change. 
  • Britain, which has announced it will phase out coal for power generation from 2024, a year earlier than originally planned, approved a new coal mine this month in an unexpected shift away from fossil fuels. Woodhouse Colliery, in northwest England, is the country’s first new coal mine in 30 years and supplies coal mainly for export to Europe. The UK government expects the plant to operate until 2029, a year before the country aims to achieve zero carbon emissions. 
  • At the same time, the Asian coal market is expected to continue its rapid growth for several years. Although China has pledged to halt the construction of new coal plants abroad and to end existing coal plans under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it continues to pump money into domestic coal development. However, China insists  it will continue to aim to stop the expansion of its coal market  in the coming years, with coal under strict control during the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025). 
  • Demand for coal also remains high in other parts of Asia, such as India and Indonesia. One Indonesian miner stated that “[coal] overall demand is expected to remain strong due to strong economic prospects in countries such as China, Indonesia and India. The effects of the war will gradually subside as countries adapt to new trade flows.
  • India and China can continue to buy Russian coal while  expanding its domestic production.” This is concerning for several reasons. First, demand for coal in Asia is expected to remain high; secondly, because many of these countries still depend on Russia for coal; and third, because many Asian countries plan to build more coal-fired power plants and increase national production. This suggests that although Europe may curb its coal dependence, this effort will be largely offset by increasing coal dependence in Asia in the coming years. 

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