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OTTAWA — ising demand for coal-fired power in Asia is driving a global boom for the much-maligned fossil fuel, raising concerns about the world’s ability to reduce emissions that cause climate change.
Even as North Americans have begun to reduce their coal consumption, global demand for coal-fired electricity jumped by 45 per cent between 2000 and 2010, and is expected to climb another 17 per cent by 2017, the International Energy Agency said in a report released Wednesday.
Coal producers in the United States and Canada are clearly benefiting from the trend, boosting Asian exports to offset lower domestic sales, with the resulting boom at West Coast export facilities such as Vancouver’s Westshore Terminals.
China alone added 55 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity capacity in 2011 and the country now represents 46 per cent of global coal demand, with significant new capacity planned.
The Paris-based IEA, which advises the developed world on energy policy, warned that the growing use of coal to generate electricity in rapidly growing emerging markets is undermining efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.
“In a truly low-carbon future, coal cannot be the dominant energy source,” the agency said in its progress report on energy and climate change.
Overall, the IEA said progress has been “alarmingly slow” in the commercialization and widespread adoption of technologies that can save energy and reduce CO2 emissions. And the underlying “carbon intensity” of the world’s energy supply – or the amount of carbon dioxide per joule of energy consumed – has remained flat since 1990.
The report came as global energy ministers, including outgoing U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, met in India to discuss progress on the clean energy agenda.
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