Friday, 22 June 12 COAL: THE BACKBONE OF MODERN ELECTRICITY - ECOAL
Coal has been described as the "forgotten fuel," perhaps because many aren't aware of the huge role it plays in powering the global economy.
Coal provides 41% of the world's electricity, almost double the next largest source, natural gas. Coal is the backbone of electricity supplies across almost every continent and is fundamental to providing safe, stable and secure energy supplies to the vast majority of countries around the world. One of the reasons coal is so fundamental to global electricity is because it is so widely available. Unlike oil and gas, coal resources exist in almost every country and almost 80 countries have recoverable reserves of coal. Although the biggest reserves of coal are found in the United States, Russia, India and China, it is actively mined in more than 70 countries. Most coal is consumed domestically. In a number of countries it is the only domestically available energy fuel and so it is essential to a secure and economic energy supply.
Coal's critical role in the world's energy supply is also shown by the fact it counts for about a third of the world's total energy demand. Coal has in fact been the fastest growing fuel every year for the past decade and between 2000 and 2010, coal met as much of the world's additional energy demand as all the other fuels (oil, gas, nuclear and renewables) combined.
With the world facing huge energy challenges, coal will play a major role in securing energy supplies long into the future. As economic growth continues and global energy poverty challenges are addressed, the International Energy Agency projects that demand for electricity across the globe could double by 2035.
Coal is set to play a major role in addressing the challenge of energy poverty (see main article) and will continue to fuel growth inthe world's electricity supply. According to the International Energy Agency, coal will still be the largest source of electricity generation globally in 2035 when it will have grown by 45%. In addition to its availability, one of them reasons coal is so important in the world's electricity supply is its affordability.
Coal is less vulnerable to price variations like oil and gas and existing coal fired power stations generate electricity at a very competitive cost compared to other fuels. In many cases burning coal is significantly cheaper than other technologies, particularly renewables. Coal is also by far the least subsidised fuel, receiving 28 times less subsidies per unit of electricity produced than natural gas.
It's numbers like these that demonstrate the key role coal plays in the world's electricity supply, so perhaps it is a surprise that it is the world's forgotten fuel. With increasing demands for coal to help eradicate energy poverty and new technologies dramatically reducing the emissions from burning coal, it is clear coal will continue to be the backbone of modern electricity well into the future. Source: Ecoal
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