Global coal use up by third as greenhouse gas emissions rise

Coal plants emitted more than ever in 2018 putting Earth in ‘deep trouble

Energy demand across the globe grew by 2.3% over the last year according to a report from the International Energy Agency

In China and India, 2018's growth came from coal power plants that are only 12 years old on average (coal plants typically last about 40 years). Fossil fuels generated 70 percent of the total energy consumption. Coal use in power alone surpassed 10 Gt CO2, mostly in Asia.

"Coal-to-gas switching avoided nearly 60 million tonnes of coal demand, with the transition to less carbon-intensive natural gas helping to avert 95 million tonnes of CO2 emissions", the IEA said.

Global energy consumption in 2018 increased at almost twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy and higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world. China, the United States, and India together accounted for almost 70% of the rise in energy demand.

Double-digit growth in solar and wind power generation - 31 percent for solar - was still not fast enough to meet soaring electricity demand that also pushed up the use of coal, the most carbon-intensive of fuels. Europe was the only region in the world that managed to stabilize its total energy demand through expanded use of renewable energy.

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Energy demand grew at its fastest pace this decade, with a 2.3% increase globally driving rises in fossil fuel consumption.

Efforts to moderate extreme weather-blasting air conditioning or cranking up the heat-in 2018 were one of the major factors behind surging global energy demand, particularly in the US, the International Energy Agency said in a report published Tuesday. Unfortunately, this rate of growth in new renewable installations could not keep up with the pace of rising energy demand. Also, increased power generation was responsible for half of the growth in primary energy demand in 2018. "The annual increase in U.S. demand a year ago was equivalent to the United Kingdom's current gas consumption". The report emphasised that this would be the second consecutive year of strong growth (after a 3 per cent gain in 2017). Strong economic growth in India saw coal consumption increase by roughly 5%, while coal generation was up 5.3% in China, according to IEA figures.

Global gas demand increased at its fastest rate since 2010, up 4.6 percent from a year earlier, driven by higher demand as switching from gas to coal increased.

Global oil demand growth slowed down in 2018 as higher oil prices partially offset robust economic activity around the world. USA emissions grew 3.1 percent in 2018, reversing decreases in 2016 and 2017.

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The report provides further evidence that the world's two biggest emitters, the United States and China, are choosing to switch from coal to natural gas, not coal to renewables. And that demand is directly linked to record-level energy-linked carbon dioxide emissions previous year, even as countries pledged to substantially cut back their carbon output.

Natural gas was the second-largest single source of global electricity generation and grew by almost 240 TWh, nearly as much as coal. Energy efficiency saw "lacklustre improvement", it said.

"Last year can also be considered another golden year for gas. but despite major growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that more urgent action is needed on all fronts", he added.

The power sector led the growth, with renewable-based electricity generation increasing by 7 per cent, nearly 450 TWh, equivalent to Brazil's entire electricity demand, which was faster than the 6 per cent average annual growth since 2010.

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