Data released by Italian coal industry association Assocarboni shows that coal has fuelled 40% of total electricity production last year.
As noted by International Energy Agency (IEA), coal will to continue to play a major role, with an expected 36% of the energy mix to be coal-generated by 2021. This share remains stable at 12%, which is the lowest percentage compared to the European average of 26%.
Last year, the seaborne world coal trade was stable after ten years at 5% annual growth, compared to that in 2015. Steam coal decreased from 886 million tonnes in 2015 to 883 million tonnes in 2016.
Decreases in coal import in Europe is a result of significant reductions in the UK, which are also balanced by an increase of exports in the South-Eastern Asian markets. Currently, the demand for coal as a fuel to generate power is shifting towards South-East Asia, where emerging economies are looking for an alternative source of electricity.
Seaborne coaking coal recorded a minor reduction of 1% from the 249 million tonnes in 2015 to 246 million tonnes last year caused by a 9% decrease in imports across the European markets in 2016, compared to 2015, as well as due to the lower price of steel.
As highlighted in the Assocarboni data, Australia continued to be the leading coal exporter in the world last year, registering a 1% increase to 393.68 million tonnes compared to 2015.
Though registering a slight decrease compared to 2015, Indonesia becomes the leading steam coal exporter, with 285.81 million tonnes in 2016.
Assocarboni's president Andrea Clavarino said: “Coal is not the enemy to fight and electricity production from coal has an environmental impact in its lifecycle similar to natural gas, taking into account the efficient curb-emissions systems developed in recent years.
“Assocarboni thus proposes to use more coal through the implementation of the best combustion technologies and renewables, and less gas, which is expensive and has serious supply security issues, following what developed and emerging countries like South Korea, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, US, and Vietnam are already doing.
“Nowadays, coal guarantees low costs and energy security, as reserves are equally distributed across the world, and therefore is, together with renewables, the best combustible to support economic and industrial development across the world, including Italy.”
During the period, Italy exhibits a 12.5% decline in the import of steam coal to 14 million tonnes, while imports of metallurgical coal and PCI have risen by 11% to 3.9 million tonnes.