Coal beginning to be phased out
Coal is one of the most widely distributed energy sources in the world. As opposed to oil, for instance, major coal deposits can be found in as many as 70 countries. Unfortunately, coal is very dirty, responsible for 44% of global CO2 emissions despite providing only 29.7% of the world’s energy. Any attempt to switch the nations of earth onto a renewable, environmentally friendly power grid must involve coal being renounced permanently.
To that end, many countries are now working to eliminate coal from their power supply grids in the near future. Most recently, France has promised to shut down all its coal plants by 2023, the UK by 2025 and Canada by 2030. All three countries are world leaders in energy consumption, meaning that if they are to successfully beat the coal addiction then the race is on to increase their non-emitting or renewable energy output.
In the long term, coal is almost certainly doomed everywhere in the long term as the economic case for using it as fuel has deteriorated in recent years. The falling price of natural gas, a fuel which emits relatively low levels of carbon, and increasing carbon taxes are causing the numbers behind coal burning generators no longer add up. These factors meant that the UK generated no energy at all from coal on several occasions in May 2016, the first time this has happened since the opening of the world’s very first coal power plant in the 1880s. In addition, the six months leading up to September 2016 was the first half year in modern industrial history that solar power exceeded coal power in the UK.
The incoming President Trump has threatened to reopen coal mines in the USA which is a worry for people who care about the future of the planet; however this feels like a last throw of the dice for the fossil fuel industry at large. The overall trend is clear. People and governments across the world are actively working to slow the destruction of the planet by moving on from coal. Even China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, is beginning to wean itself off coal and has become a major supplier of cheap wind and solar energy in the process.
Hopefully the waning popularity of coal is the next major step in the human race moving on from the fossil fuel age altogether.