Back To Black: Green Energy On The Back Foot As Europe Returns To Coal

  • Date: 18/04/13
  • Matt McGrath, BBC News

It’s been a bad week for efforts to develop green energy around the world. A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) says that progress towards carbon-free energy production has basically stalled while Europe has seen a return to coal in the last couple of years.

coal station

Coal-fired electricity generation has seen a resurgence in Europe over the past two years

“Despite much talk by world leaders,” said IEA executive director, Maria van der Hoeven, “and despite a boom in renewable energy over the last decade, the average unit of energy produced today is basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago.”

The IEA uses a complex calculation called the carbon intensity index to show how much CO2 is emitted to provide a given unit of energy.

The index stood at 2.39 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of oil in 1990. By 2010, it has shrunk fractionally to 2.37 tonnes.

Back to black

The major reason for such a small reduction of that period, according to the IEA, was the resurgence of coal. And it continues to grow. Globally, coal-fired electricity generation rose by an estimated 6% from 2010 to 2012 , faster than non-fossil energy.

The major growth in coal came from developing economies, with China accounting for 46% of global coal demand in 2011.

But it’s not just them.

Europe, the region that likes to think of itself as perhaps the greenest in the world, has also seen a return to coal in the last couple of years. While the US has turned to shale gas, Europeans have once again embraced the black stuff, as the cost of coal has plummeted.

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