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Demand for coal overtakes green fuels: IEA news
18 April 2013

Low-carbon energy development is progressing too slowly to limit global warming, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said yesterday.

With power generation still dominated by coal and governments not increasing investment in clean energy, top climate scientists said that the target of keeping the rise in global warming to less than 2 C this century was slipping out of reach.

The drive to clean up the world's energy system had stalled, Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA's executive director said at the launch of the agency's report on clean energy progress.

She added, despite much talk by global leaders, and a boom in renewable energy over the past decade, the average unit of energy produced today was basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago.

According to the IEA coal-fired generation was up by 45 per cent between 2000 and 2010, which was much higher than the 25 per cent growth in non-fossil fuel generation over the same period.

A revolution in shale gas technology had triggered a switch from coal to cleaner natural gas in the US, but elsewhere though coal use had soared, especially in Europe, where its share of the power generation mix had risen at the expense of gas.

The report added that with the world still dependent on fossil fuels, the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology was critical, though there were no commercial plants in operation.

According to the IEA CCS, which buried and trapped  CO2 underground, should play a major role in cutting global emissions. The IEA had forecast that 63 per cent of coal power plants needed to be  equipped with the technology by 2050.

Meanwhile, increasing demand for coal-fired power in Asia was driving a global boom for the much-maligned fossil fuel, that raised questions about the world's ability to cut emissions that caused climate change.

Even as North Americans had started cutting their coal consumption, global demand for coal-fired electricity had soared by 45 per cent between 2000 and 2010, and was expected to climb another 17 per cent by 2017, the report said.

The report added that coal producers in the US and Canada were clearly benefiting from the trend, boosting Asian exports to offset lower domestic sales, resulting in a boom at West Coast export facilities such as Vancouver's Westshore Terminals.

China alone added 55 Gw coal-fired electricity capacity in 2011 and the country now represented 46 per cent of global coal demand, with significant new capacity planned.

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Demand for coal overtakes green fuels: IEA