The end of the age of fossil fuels is not yet in sight in Europe. As Statista's Martin Armstrong illustrates in the following infographic, there are still a number of countries that generate a very large proportion of their electricity from coal.
At the same time, not all countries have announced a date for phasing out its use. This applies in particular to those countries that have a high proportion of coal-fired electricity. Despite recent efforts to transition to renewable energy, Germany still lies in the upper quarter of the country comparison, behind countries such as Poland, Czechia, Greece and Bulgaria. The government is aiming to phase out coal by 2038.
Scientists are demanding a move away from electricity generation from coal. The prevention of climate change can only be achieved by a complete abandonment of fossil fuels. In addition, electricity from renewable energies can be produced more cheaply than electricity from fossil fuels - taking into account the resulting costs of health and climate damage. In Poland, for example, many people suffer health problems from the consequences of high levels of air pollution. Nevertheless, there is no prospect of a swift turn away from coal. One reason for this is that jobs in the five-digit region depend on coal production.
Global coal production has risen again recently, with around 8 billion tonnes of coal mined in 2018. Countries such as China, Russia and the USA contributed to the increase.
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There are three reasons why Europe is still addicted to coal for electricity generation. The first is a shift away from nuclear energy for electricity generation. The second is that renewables are not able to offset the loss of nuclear electricity. The third reason is that European countries where coal mining provides significant employment opportunities are not going to rush to abolish coal.
Take the case of Germany. Germany has rushed to decommission its nuclear energy but was forced to repeatedly delay its decommissioning and resort to coal because renewable energy couldn’t offset the loss of nuclear electricity.
Coal remains the world’s third biggest primary energy source despite being challenged by serious environmental policies and despite a global expenditure of $3.0 trillion on renewable energy during the last decade.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London