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A new era: Coal usage and emissions in the global power sector to peak in 2023

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World Coal,

According to a recent release from Rystad Energy, global coal-fired power generation is on track to peak in 2023, as new sources of renewable and low-carbon energy expand rapidly. Coal has dominated the global power sector for the past 30 years, but Rystad modelling shows that 2024 will mark the start of the fuel’s decline, as solar and wind generation grow in popularity.

New electricity supply from renewables is expected to outstrip power demand growth, leading to coal’s displacement starting next year and compounding in the coming years. As a result, coal-fired generation will fall marginally to 10 332 TWh in 2024, down 41 TWh from 2023. This is a relative drop in the ocean, but it’s a sign of things to come as renewables continue their growth trajectory.

As coal’s share falls, so will the associated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Thanks to coal’s dominant role in powering the world, the power sector is the biggest contributor to global pollution – accounting for about 40% of all emissions.

Investments in coal capacity and overall usage have fallen in Europe and North America in recent years, due to a combination of strict emissions policies and abundant availability of affordable natural gas supplies. Yet, enduring growth in Asia, primarily China, has kept global coal consumption buoyant. Even so, coal will be gradually displaced by the rapid development of low-carbon power sources, ushering in a cleaner, leaner system even as investments in new capacity in Asia continue over the next few years.

“Coal usage in the power sector is peaking. The drop in total coal generation in 2024 may be small on paper, but it signals the beginning of the renewable energy era in the power market. However, there are still challenges to overcome in a renewables-heavy electricity sector, including intermittency issues. For that reason, coal and natural gas power plants will continue to play a key role by providing baseload supply and flexibility,” says Carlos Torres Diaz, senior vice president of renewables and power research at Rystad Energy.

To read the rest of the release, click here.
To dive deeper into Rystad Energy’s research and analysis on the energy transition, download its new flagship report: Global Energy Scenarios 2023

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