World Economy

Coal Use Will Drastically Decline in Thirty Years

Workers unload coal at a storage site along  a railway station in Hefei, China.Workers unload coal at a storage site along  a railway station in Hefei, China.

The world’s reliance on energy sources like oil and coal, some of the main culprits behind pollution, is dwindling, according to the World Bank.

“The model has been coal plus renewables, the model can be gas plus renewables. I think 10, 12 years from now, we will see renewables and storage and nothing more than that,” Riccardo Puliti, the World Bank’s global head of energy and extractives, told CNBC.

In fact, coal usage may fall dramatically in coming decades, he said: “I think that coal in the next 30 years—we will see that it will go very much out of the energy mix more and more.”

Despite Puliti’s prediction, a report released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics earlier this year said coal consumption rose by 0.7% in 2017 for the first time since 2013, mainly due to economic stimulus from the government. Furthermore, coal continued to constitute the largest energy source for China tipping over 60% of its energy mix.

Perhaps even more worrying is the increase in global coal consumption last year after two straight years of decline, according to data released last month by the International Energy Agency. Nevertheless, Puliti said he is “extremely happy” about China’s rhetoric on combating climate change, he said.

Beyond that, some nations are well underway in their efforts to combat pollution and promote cleaner, greener technologies, he said, pointing to Europe—with Germany spearheading investments in wind energy over the last decade. More recently, a German court ruled in favor of allowing cities to ban diesel cars producing significant air pollution.

Although some of the world’s major economies show promising signs, adopting renewables remains a costly affair for most countries and industries. Puliti acknowledged that the technology used in alternative forms of energy can be quite expensive in the beginning, but that costs go down very quickly as penetration increases. He noted, for example, that the price of solar has been falling by 8% to 10% every year.

“It’s a matter of how much—as a government—you want to push for new technology, cleaner technology,” he said.


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