IEA: Coal-fired energy to hit an all-time high in 2021
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The world-wide volume of coal-fired power generation in 2021 will rise by 9 % to reach an all-time high of 10,350 terawatt hours (TWh), the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report entitled Coal 2021.

    Increased production is prompted by a recovery in world-wide demand for coal. That demand declined by 4.4 % in 2021, but is due to rise by 6 % by the end of 2021 to 7,906 million tonnes.

    The driving force behind the increase in coal-fired generation is not only China and India, but also the United States and European Union – where the increase in production was nearly 20 %. The basis for the forecast is confirmed by data from the Energy information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ember think tank.

    Data showed that in the United States over the first nine months of the year total coal-fired generation rose by 25 % year-on -year (to 719 TWh), while in the 27 countries of the EU, the increase was 23 % (to 283 TWh).

    In the United States, the main reason behind the rise was a recovery in demand for energy and, against this background, production of all energy sources increased by 3 % in the first nine months of the year. In Europe, gas shortages caused gas-fired power generation to fall by 7.5 % over the same period.

    In China, where coal accounted for 63 % of all power generation, the overall production of electricity rose by 12.3 % in the first 10 months of 2021 (to 6,825 TWh, according to the China Electricity Council).

    In the autumn, as cold weather approached, the threat of a coal shortage loomed and China boosted coal imports by 96 % year-on-year to 26.9 millio tonnes) and in November imports tripled (to 35.1 million tonnes, compared to 11.7 million tonnes in November 2020), according to the Chinese Customs Authority.

    The coal imports eased the energy crisis — at the beginning of October, power shortages gripped 18 Chinese provinces while by the middle of the month, that number was reduced to two provinces, according to the Australian Commonwealth Bank.

    The rise in imports also brought down coal prices – spot prices for thermal coal in the Chinese port of Qinhuangdao fell from $266 a tonne in October to $208 in November, according to Refinitiv data. Even after a price correction, prices remained at twice the levels of December 2020.

    Prices were also higher than the previous year’s levelsfor coking coal, used in the steel industry. Futures for Australian coking coal, traded on the Singapore exchange, never really fell below $300 a tonne through the autumn – whereas they hovered near the $100 mark at the beginning of the year.

    The reasons behind this were China’s ban on coal imports from Australia – the world’s largest producer of coking coal – and the world-wide recovery of the steel industry. World-wide demand for steel in 2021 is due to rise 4.5 % (compared to a rise of 0.1 % in 2020), according to a report by the World Steel Association. For the same reason, world-wide demand for coking coal, which dipped by 3 % in 2020, is to rise 0.5 % in 2021 (to 1,106 million tonnes, according to an IEA forecast).

    The improved outlook is to the benefit of Russian coal producers. From January to October this year, Russia’s physical coal exports rose 9.1 % year-on-year (to 174.7 million tonnes) and export earnings rose by 30.1 % (to $13.3 billion), according to figures from Russia’s Federal Customs Service.

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