Coal is without a doubt one of the dirtiest sources of energy man has ever used. After centuries of use, filling the atmosphere with heat-retaining greenhouse gases, dozens of countries across the world have recognized the role played by coal in environmental pollution and global warming. As a result, there has been a global drive to move away from coal and coal-fired power plants to renewables that cost less and have a significantly reduced impact on the environment.
Unfortunately, the global energy crunch, which was severely exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prevented most countries from keeping their coal promises and has even caused some nations to fire up their previously shut down coal-power plants.
According to World Coal Council chairman July Ndlovu, coal will play a crucial role in maintaining energy security across the world amid supply chain issues, price increases and reduced output from renewables due to droughts. Speaking at the Southern Africa Coal Conference, Ndlovu stated that recent geopolitical events drastically impacted energy security across the world and changed the trajectory of coal-produced power.
He added that coal had demonstrated its reliability amid recent geopolitical issues, delivering a steady supply of energy to countries facing uncertainty and turmoil at a time when energy supplies were dwindling. The energy source “plays a pivotal role” in regions with limited energy sources such as South Africa, Asia and a large chunk of Africa, and allows people in these regions to access light, food, heat and employment, Ndlovu noted.
Coal is still an essential source of electricity in more than 80 countries, he continued, reechoing the IEA’s predictions that coal would be the main source of electricity for 22% of the globe’s population by 2040. He then added that despite the global push for cleaner energy sources, coal’s multiple practicalities and attributes made it a better choice compared to unreliable and inadequate singular energy solutions. Ndlovu also noted that coal was integral in the production of aluminum, cement and steel.
With the International Energy Agency predicting that the demand for steel will increase by one-third by 2050, Ndlovu argued that renewables simply weren’t enough to supply the amount of power needed to produce crucial products such as cement and steel. In the meantime, Ndlovu stated that the coal industry is looking to an abated coal future where a majority of coal emissions could be eliminated by abatement technologies.
From his sentiments, it is clear that it will be hard to wish coal away in the near-term, and that extraction companies such as Warrior Met Coal Inc. (NYSE: HCC) still have a role to play in enabling the world to meet its energy needs, at least for the foreseeable future.
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