Coal flat-lining but demand growing

The article in the Herald (A terminal or tourism 28/2) referred to a comment from energy analyst Tim Buckley that “global thermal coal export market peaked in 2014 and was ‘flat-lining’ as the world shifts to renewable energy.” Mr Buckley’s comment comes from the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2017

However, there is much more information to be considered from the International Energy Agency.

Sure, the percentage of coal use is decreasing around the world and will continue to do so. The agency predicts that between 2016 and 2040 the percentage of coal used to generate electricity will drop from 40 per cent to 29 per cent. However, the world’s electricity needs (and generation sources) are going to increase by 70 per cent between now and 2040. So the aqgency predicts that the volume of coal consumed in the world in 2040 will be 22 per cent more than in 2016.

Does what is happening today support this prediction?  

Japan has 18 coal fired power stations in operation. Another 45 coal fired power stations are under construction in Japan. Fifty per cent of the coal from Newcastle goes to Japan. With the number of Japanese power stations about to triple, don’t expect the demand for Hunter coal to lessen any time soon.

On a broader scale, there are 857 coal fired power stations being built in Asia. Ninety per cent of the coal exported from Newcastle goes to Asia.

So there will soon be another 857 customers for our coal.

With this massive increase in demand, both coal loading companies in the Port of Newcastle will be increasing their output, not decreasing it.

We are told continually that Australia (and the world) is ‘transitioning to renewable energy sources.’ More accurately we should be told that Australia (and the world) is ‘transitioning to 10 per cent reliance on renewable energy sources’. 

Sure, renewable energy sources are becoming more prevalent, but they will not become the main source of electricity in the foreseeable future.

The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2040, 70 per cent of the world’s electricity will come from coal, gas or nuclear, while only 10 per cent will come from solar and wind combined. Don’t forget, due to night time, cloud and windless days, solar and wind only work 25 per cent of the time. At present, six per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from solar and wind.

Australia cannot plan to rely on renewables to be our dominant and reliable source of electricity. Australia needs to focus on establishing reliable sources of electricity by using its abundant coal and gas reserves.

Asia is smart enough to have worked out where a reliable source of electricity will come from. They are to going to use Hunter Valley coal to fuel their 857 new, clean and efficient power stations because our coal is the cleanest and best in the world.

The Hunter will be exporting the world’s best and cleanest coal to hundreds of Asian power stations for the next 40 years at least.

The main thrust of the article A terminal or tourism suggested that the demand for Hunter coal was waning and that the Carrington terminal was no longer needed.

A review of the massive growth of coal fired powered stations in Asia highlights the fact that the Hunter and Asia need the Carrington terminal to be operating for a long time to come.

Robert Monteath is a registered surveyor and certified practising planner