Despite the growing climate change concerns, global demand for coal has almost doubled since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
The future role of coal in the global energy mix must include co-firing with biomass and a renewed focus on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), a new report released by Pöyry Point of View shows.
The global coal fleet makes up around one third of total global electricity generation capacity and around 40% of total electricity generation. As energy demand increases with rising living standards in developing countries and a growing world population, coal's cheap and abundant nature means it is still an attractive source of electricity generation, in spite of global commitments to decarbonize.
Thus, without radical change, it is likely that the majority of coal-fired generation capacity will be with us for the foreseeable future, with the projection indicating around 1,300GW still in operation by 2040.
Significantly, the Pöyry projection does not factor the several hundred GW of new coal which is under construction around the world and the many more that are still in planning.
Matt Brown, Vice President at Pöyry Management Consulting, said, "As world leaders gathered at COP21, there was an implied commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Without significant change, that commitment may be difficult to meet with the retirement portfolio we are projecting for coal."
He added that Increasing the coal fleet's efficiency is very important but in addition there is the need to co-fire coal capacity with biomass and push harder on CCS. But the appraisal and development of CO2 storage sites and the economic model makes costly CCS plants competitive with their carbon-emitting counterparts.
The global coal fleet is spread around the world, with 45% of capacity in China, 16% in the US, 9% in India and 8% in Europe - the remainder is distributed across many countries. Matt added, "If we want to keep the lights on and save the planet then governments and companies alike need to urgently address the coal conundrum".