Coal faces dire future

By Wisdom Mumera

Demand for coal which is the foremost fossil fuel used in industrial production is set to decline as companies opt for cheaper renewable energy according to the Blomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

The report predicts a bright long term future for renewables and inversely a bleak future for coal which has driven industrialisation for years.

“Sluggish demand, cheap renewables and coal-gas fuel switching slash coal use by 87% in Europe and 45% in the U.S. (United States), by 2040, while coal generation continues to grow in China but reaches peak in 2026”.

“A mere 18% of planned new coal power plants will ever get built. That means 369GW of projects stand to be cancelled,” it says.

This year’s forecast from BNEF sees solar energy costs dropping a further 66% by 2040 and onshore wind by 47%, with renewables undercutting the majority of existing fossil power stations by 2030.

In the resultant gap created by decline in coal production, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind will take up almost three quarters of a $10.2 trillion predicted to be the global  investment in power generating technology up to 2040.

In Zimbabwe, coal output which is integral to energy industry, recorded a significant decline in 2016 with production at 2,7 million tonnes representing a 38 percent decline from 4,3 million tonnes in 2015, according to the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe.

Whereas around the globe the slump has been due to shifts towards renewable, in Zimbabwe this has been blamed on working capital constraints, increased production costs and a general decline in global commodity prices.

The bulk of the coal produced by the Hwange Colliery and Makomo Resources is taken up by Hwange Power Station, which consumes between 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes a day.  The remainder is supplied to small thermal power stations as well as regional markets

Comparatively, decarbonisation will see more positive progress as global emissions will peak in the same 2026 when coal fatally peaks before a gradual slide into production recession. This will  culminate in global emissions being 4% lower in 2040 by which time renewables will be the mainstay energy sources.

“This year’s report suggests that the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable, thanks to rapidly falling costs for solar and wind power, and a growing role for batteries, including those in electric vehicles, in balancing supply and demand,” said Seb Henbest, lead author of NEO 2017 at BNEF.

The exiting of coal usurped by renewables will mark a giant step towards the banishing  of noxious fossil fuels and herald  a new era of a green global industry fuelled by non-toxic energy.

Post Author: Nyasha Nyakunu

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