Monday, January 7, 2013

Stunning Fact: Coal Electricity Surges Up To 50% in Europe As Coal Enjoys Its Golden Age Outside USA

Coal consumption is surging in not just China and India but also in Europe to the surprise of many. "The amount of electricity generated from coal is rising at annualised rates of as much as 50% in some European countries" writes the Economist. Moreover,  substantial numbers of new coal plants are being built in Germany and some other European nations.

Why is coal surging in Europe but declining in the United States? It's not President Obama, as some would have it. Instead the answer is the price of natural gas, coal's main competitor, in Europe and the USA.

As the Economist writes: "Compared with the rock-bottom price of gas in America, coal is not all that cheap. But it is a bargain compared with the price of gas in Europe...So coal is cheaper than gas in Europe and is likely to remain so..."

The Economist goes on to say about European power trends: "In response, companies are switching from gas to coal as fast as they can..."

And what about renewables in Europe? They are growing substantially. Germany is likely to reach 30% or 35% of its electricity coming from renewables in 10 to 15 years.  Even once it is achieved, that goal, of course, will leave 65% of electricity to come from other sources.  And as the Economist points out,   renewables in Europe are " fact displacing gas but not coal."

In the USA the shale gas boom exists, natural gas pricing is low, and gas is displacing coal.

In Europe, the shale gas boom does not exist, with France banning fracking. Natural gas prices, therefore, are high, and coal-fired generation increases. It's economics 101.

With one amendment, The Economist provides the fact of the day: "While coal production and use plummet in America, in Europe 'we have some kind of golden age of coal,' says Anne-Sophie Corbeau of the International Energy Agency."  The amendment is that coal has reached its highest share of global energy in the last 45 years. It is enjoying a golden age around the world, with the important exception of the USA, where natural gas has displaced large amounts of coal, as a result of the shale gas revolution.


  1. Europe is supposedly using a type of coal that is less polluting and the new coal plants are more efficient and less polluting;
    At least or at best, coal plants are not every 1/4, 1/2, mile apart like the polluting, emitting gas pads, compressor stations that scar our US , country landscapes.
    Fossil fuels need to be replaced here and now, though; Humans need to have the courage and focus and develop some new, viable alternatives.

  2. Coal has been and will continue to be one of the most abundant and least costly energy sources for the world for decades to come. Unlike natural gas it is very portable which means that low cost producers anywhere in the world will be price setters.

    Shutting down older, less efficient coal-fired electrical power generation plants in the U.S. makes perfect sense and will be accelerated by MACT. But any thought that renewables can take up the slack in the short terms is a dream (or a nightmare - for an amusing take on one possible scenario see my Christmas blog at

    We can make coal cleaner and more efficient with the latest technology and we need to do that. But going cold turkey on coal will involve more pain than taxpayers and ratepayers are willing to stand.

    1. There is easy ways to develop solar powered devices that is nearly 100% efficient as contary to lower effienct photovoltaics.. One of the simplest devices is known as mirrors... Why mirrors? well Mirrors is not going to create electricity , of course but everybody seems to forget that mirrors can create Btus . come to think about your central furnace that runs on nat gas or fuel oil as well as electricity in some locations. Now if you develop 100-500X concentrated sunlight pointed toward the metal plate behind which air flows, you get free heated air for your living quarters.. You will be amazed at how well it works... Moreover, you wont need any smart thermostat to save you money as sunlight is free.Your solar furnace can run full blast non stop as long as the sun shines.. Dont ask me what happens when it is foggy , it is a stupid question , of course!

  3. John, I am a bit suspecting about the real price of nat gas or more specifically the real cost of fracking nat gas itself alone... The nat gas market doesnt care how much a company spend to frack a mcf of nat gas out as long as he is willing to sell it at the price of the day. Companies tend to throw all the various costs of old reserves and new ones in the mix . So the ongoing price for a mcf of nat gas is around $3.50 as of Jan, 2013 may not really reflect the higher cost of fracking new nat gas today. I have a hunch that fracked nat gas costs far more than today's price but producers are forced to sell at today's going price. No wonder, they are starting to quit fracking for now.. and wait till nat gas prices better reflect the true cost of fracked nat gas and stay higher. I think fracked nat gas needs to fetch above $6 per mcf or higher. Come to think of how much energy is expended to frack the shale free of nat gas... Quite a lot!