Global coal demand up 0.7% in 2018, largely due to Asia: IEA

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

Gas demand growth was especially strong in the USA and China, it added. Improvements in energy efficiency rates fell from 1.9% in 2018 to 1.3% in 2018, the fourth consecutive year of decline, but still were the largest source of global carbon abatement.

IEA said 2018 was a record year for solar capacity, which grew 31%, with China adding 44GW of PV alone. However, that was not fast enough to meet higher electricity demand around the world that also drove up coal use.

Worldwide, emissions of global-warming carbon-dioxide gas rose 1.7 percent in 2018 to 33.1 billion tons.

Coal's share of total electricity generation totaled 10,116 TWh, up 2.6% from 2017, as it commanded 38% of total generation around the world.

"Whilst not impossible, if we do not address the emissions of coal power plants in Asia, to comply with our climate goals will be extremely challenging", Birol told AFP. 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). Taken together, renewables were responsible for nearly 45 per cent of the world's increase in electricity generation and now account for nearly 25% of global power output, second after coal.

"Coal demand grew for a second year, but its role in the global mix continued to decline".

In the USA, a year of memorable weather was responsible for about half of a more than 10% jump in domestic gas demand, the agency said. Two-thirds of the growth in emissions came from the power sector, particularly from coal-fired power generation. China remains the world's leading renewable energy country, both for wind and solar, followed by Europe and then the United States. Compare that with year 2010, when the increase in emissions was just 0.3 percent per percentage point of economic growth.

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The world consumed record levels of energy a year ago, pushing up Carbon dioxide emissions to alarming levels, despite mounting evidence of its links to climate change.

"We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade", remarked Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA's Executive Director.

For the most part, humanity's growing demand for energy still means a growing demand for fossil fuels. The report noted how average winter and summer temperatures in some regions approached or exceeded historical records, causing consumers to use more power for heating, but more significantly, hotter summer temperatures pushing up the demand for cooling.

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

Monday's report underscores an unnerving truth about the world's collective efforts to combat climate change: Even as renewable energy rapidly expands, many countries - including the United States and China - are nevertheless still turning to fossil fuels to satisfy ever-growing energy demand.

But recent studies have shown that even a 2C increase will profoundly alter Earth's climate, boosting the intensity and frequency of deadly heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms.

Global electricity demand expanded 4 percent past year, due to added capacity, and now accounts for about 20 percent of total final energy consumption. A new research report from a clean-energy policy think tank found that solar and wind have become so cheap in the United States that it's more cost-effective to immediately tear down and replace 74 percent of the country's coal-fired power plants than to continue fueling them.

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