The coal price has skyrocketed in 2021 – what does it mean for net zero?

Andrey Andreyev, CC BY-SA

Michael Tamvakis, City, University of London

It is only a few days since the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) signalled the dire consequences of human-induced climate change. At the heart of this stark warning by UN Secretary General António Guterres and the scientists behind the report was the urgent need to heavily reduce coal in the energy mix.

Yet in the run-up to publication, and absent from mainstream news headlines, was the steady ascent of coal prices, past US$100 (£72) per metric tonne in June and then past US$130 in mid-July to over US$170 today. This is almost four times the price last September.

The rise in prices can be attributed squarely to a resurgence of demand after the depths of the pandemic – especially in emerging Asian markets such as China and India, but also in Japan, South Korea, Europe and the US. Electricity demand, which remains closely linked to coal, is expected to have increased by 5% across 2021 and a further 4% in 2022.

On the supply side, there are also some issues such as China being unable to acquire coal from Australia due to an import ban, and smaller disruptions in the export output of major producers Indonesia, South Africa and Russia. But there are no long-term supply issues, as the main producing countries have not curtailed their production or export capacity. Prices should not therefore stay high for very long.

The coal price (US$/metric tonne)

The revival of world demand for energy hopefully means the world economy is recovering from the pandemic, but the surge in coal prices is a reminder of how energy still relies on fossil fuels. Global energy consumption totalled 556 exajoules in 2020, and oil, coal and natural gas accounting for 31%, 27% and 25% of the total respectively. That adds up to more than four-fifths of the total.

Stubborn coal

Coal has two main uses, electricity generation and steel manufacturing, with the former responsible for about two-thirds of what is consumed. The faster we can remove coal from electricity generation, the higher the likelihood of achieving the Paris Agreement targets.

Yet coal seems to be resilient, if not stubborn, when it comes to its elimination. Since 2010, the percentage share of natural gas in total global electricity generation has stayed the same at 23% even though the world’s power consumption has risen by about a quarter. The percentage share of renewables, excluding hydroelectricity, has tripled and its actual generation in terawatt hours (TWh) has quadrupled. Meanwhile, coal has lost share, down to 35% from 40%, but it remains way ahead of natural gas, its closest competitor, and the amount of coal that we burn for electricity has gone up overall.

Global electricity mix 2020 vs 2010

Total electricity generation 2020 vs 2010
BP Statistical Review of World Energy

The reality is that coal makes good business sense. Coal-fired power plants have long been big enough to make the building costs economically viable, with the largest plants boasting a capacity of 5GW. The fuel is relatively cheap most of the time, and the biggest consumers, China, the US and India, all enjoy politically safe supplies.

Coal-fired generation is steady and predictable, making it suitable for ensuring the minimum level of electricity a country continually needs – known as the baseload. This guarantees that the proportion of the fuel converted into electricity, known as capacity utilisation, is typically over 70%. This has been affected by the continuous drive to replace coal with renewables and natural gas, taking it as low as 53% in 2019, but given the current levels of demand, we should expect it to be higher for 2021.

This all translates into steady income flows from selling coal-fired electricity to the grid in many countries, which makes this power source attractive to investors. When it comes to the triptych of supply security, affordability and sustainability, coal serves the first two with ease, even as it leaves a big dirty smudge on the third one.

The biggest users

The spectacular Chinese economic growth of the last 20 years, and the considerable expansion of electrification of the Indian economy, were largely based on coal. Thanks to them, the world has doubled its coal-fired capacity since 2000 to over 2,000GW.

In 2020, coal generated 63% of electricity in China and 72% in India. In the same year, China produced half of the world’s coal, nearly 4 billion tonnes, while India came a distant second with around 750 million tonnes. Between them, the two countries accounted for two-thirds of global consumption and were also the two largest importers. The figures truly boggle the mind.

Electricity generation in China

Graph of electricity generation in China over time
BP Statistical Review of World Energy

Electricity generation in India

Graph of electricity generation in India over time
BP Statistical Review of World Energy

Elsewhere, coal is on the back foot. In the US, the second-largest electricity generator after China, coal has retreated in favour of natural gas. It fired 20% of US electricity in 2020 compared to 43% in 2010, while natural gas has risen over the same period from 24% to 40%.

In Germany, coal generation has been equalled by wind, while in the UK coal is used only as a backup. Similarly, Japan and South Korea are expanding their natural gas, nuclear and renewables in an effort to reduce the carbon impact of their electricity generation. Even China has joined the efforts by adding new solar and wind capacity.

Nonetheless, it clearly remains difficult from a business perspective to eliminate coal worldwide: the west has essentially exported the problem to China because so much of the world’s heavy manufacturing has moved there. Coal-fired plants are long-term investments, often 40 to 50 years long. A plant built in 2000 is only halfway through its life, so shutting it down now, however desirable, would wreck the economics for the investors.

Unless coal prices remain permanently high (unlikely), or the cost of carbon emissions is more prohibitive due to taxes or carbon trading schemes (possible, but perhaps not everywhere), or there is direct government intervention to decommission plants, coal may yet surprise us all and persist for longer than we expect. For the sake of the next and following generations, let us hope it will not.

Michael Tamvakis, Professor of Commodity Economics and Finance, City, University of London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Coach Springer
August 17, 2021 6:04 am

A resurgence in demand with restricted production / supply.

oeman 50
Reply to  Coach Springer
August 18, 2021 8:25 am

When Biden executive ordered a ban on new fracking on federal lands, the price of natural gas shot up. Do you know what that did? It caused a shift in the price of electricity more in the favor of coal. Utilities that could burn coal burned more of it as a consequence. Hmmm…..

Tom Halla
August 17, 2021 6:09 am

The problems with wind and solar were noted in Texas during the February storm. For that matter, some natural gas lines froze, and the folly of using electrical compressors on gas lines was revealed.
Coal, on the other hand, already had stockpiles ready to use. The major risk with coal in the US is political.

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 17, 2021 1:28 pm

Ah yes but China must always be exempt from all UN concern and tedious bloviating about “the global environment”.

About which Beijing could not give a stuff.

David Elstrom
August 17, 2021 6:19 am

Lots of market disrupting forces are part of the climate change scam. Our Dear Leaders are hostile to carbon based fuels being efficient and inexpensive. If net zero were such a great idea for improving our lives people would adopt other energy sources without constant threats and pressure from DC masterminds.

August 17, 2021 6:24 am

It will not be the IPCC that will dictate the energy market and the fuels to generate it but technology and demand. We’ve already been through this many a time, and always with the same outcome: Lots of memes, lots of hype, and lots of nothing.

One definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and each time expecting different results..

Last edited 1 year ago by Alex
Reply to  Alex
August 17, 2021 7:56 am

But the political process can wreck the economic future of entire societies, such as the coming subservience of Germany, and thus the EU, to Russian energy blackmail.

August 17, 2021 6:31 am

Another anti-coal article with the mandatory apocalyptic photograph at the top.

We need to concern ourselves more with sensible and efficient use of reserves than with eliminating coal. Using gas in its place for power generation places pressure on gas reserves which are better and more efficiently used directly in consumer premises. Coal And gas powered generation can in due course be completely replaced by nuclear assuming sufficient political will.

the move to electric vehicles places further demands on electricity generation, even though the lifetime CO2 emissions of petroleum powered vehicles is now very similar to those of electric vehicles.

Reply to  richardw
August 17, 2021 8:10 am

Well natural gas DOES burn cleaner and without ashes.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Hans Erren
August 17, 2021 8:35 am

So? That’s a red herring argument. The point is that coal and NG are natural competitors. Coal helps stabilize the price of NG, which can and does fluctuate wildly without coal, for various reasons.

Reply to  Hans Erren
August 17, 2021 9:28 am

Hans –
UK coal fired capacity produced aggregates for the construction industry, and gypsum (from desulphurisation plants) for plasterboard. Now the UK coal fired generating capacity is almost wholly closed down, the UK needs to look for alternatives. Many of the older ash lagoons are having materials recovered for aggregates.
With mandatory flue gas treatment, coal and even domestic waste materials can be burned with very low levels of gaseous emissions.
A common practice today is to the word “dirty” for fossil fuels and especially coal. This seeks to establish a taboo, and is an appeal to emotional (not rational) thinking.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  richardw
August 17, 2021 1:44 pm

But, but, but…. Coal is dying out! It must be true, I read it in the Grauniad, and griff keeps telling us.

Yesterday we used less coal than today, today we use less coal than tomorrow. Every day we use less coal!

Smart Rock
August 17, 2021 6:40 am

China being unable to acquire coal from Australia due to an import ban

Don’t you mean China is punishing Australia for having the audacity to express negative opinions about Chinese expansionism?

“Unable” my ar$e

Last edited 1 year ago by Smart Rock
Reply to  Smart Rock
August 17, 2021 7:59 am

“being unable” = refusing.

Reply to  Drake
August 17, 2021 1:22 pm

All a shadow-play, they’re importing it anyway. The question is, should we return the favor, and sanction them in return, and actually shut it all off?

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  WXcycles
August 17, 2021 1:48 pm

The question is, should we return the favor, and sanction them in return, and actually shut it all off?

We should. I believe that global public opinion is turning against China, and people are starting to avoid ‘made in China’ goods more and more.

The hilarious thing about china’s stand on our coal is that we have the best coal in the world, they still have to buy it somewhere, so the price goes up, and we still get to sell our coal to someone else.

Ron Long
August 17, 2021 6:47 am

So Michael Tamvakis writes an article about has established and necessary coal is to the energy sector, then at the end says “For the sake of the next and following generations, let us hope it will not.” This comment is directed at the continued importance and value of coal as an energy element. “…let us hope it will not.” is therefore a wish to compromise energy availability to all sectors of cultural status, advanced or emerging. What nonsense. This clown Tamvakis wishes cultural regression?

Michael in Dublin
Reply to  Ron Long
August 17, 2021 7:17 am

There is an interesting comment on the original article. The Guardian writes of renewable energy being cheaper than most new coal plants. This alarmist logic exposes their hogwash. Why would the Chinese who are interested in making money and bigger profits then choose more expensive coal and not renewables?

August 17, 2021 7:04 am

Just delete the last syllable from the last sentence, and it all makes sense. “Let’s hope it will!”

August 17, 2021 7:40 am

It really means not much, is my guess.

What it DOES reflect is China’s “rejection” of Australian coal, and the US cutting back on coal exports, both of which means money chasing a smaller market of coal, and thus a price increase.

But my guess is that the price increase is much larger than actual use of coal increase. It’s just mainly the US making power more expensive for the poor, in the name of climate.

Reply to  Shanghai Dan
August 17, 2021 9:54 am

What China can’t do without is Australia’s coking coal.

But they can rustle up adequate supplies of low quality, dirty thermal coal from desperate suppliers.

All this does is emit hugely extra volumes of REAL POLLUTION into the air, along with border-line beneficial CO2.

Germany is going down a similar path.

Reply to  Mr.
August 17, 2021 12:33 pm

Why is thermal coal “dirty”? Is this the same taboo-building mythology? A modern coal fired power station with IED compliant flue gas treatment will produce very low levels of gaseous emissions of pollutants. And the solid materials can be sold into the aggregates and building industry.
So how can you justify using the word “dirty”? It all looks rather emotive and irrational to me.

Reply to  Jordan
August 17, 2021 1:22 pm

“Dirty” if the measures you mention are not applied.

Reply to  Mr.
August 17, 2021 11:35 pm

if the measures you mention are not applied”
They are applied.
Air pollutant emissions from coal-fired power plants in China over the past two decades – ScienceDirect

Reply to  Mr.
August 17, 2021 1:20 pm

But they can rustle up adequate supplies of low quality, dirty thermal coal from desperate suppliers. …

No, they didn’t last winter, Chinese people suffered badly from a lack of coal and reliable power.

August 17, 2021 7:51 am

“ The faster we can remove coal from electricity generation, the higher the likelihood of achieving the Paris Agreement targets.”

Paris targets, and any target for that matter, are totally irrelevant for climate, much less the some mythical target temp in 2100?
When will we stop the delusion that the COP process agreements are nothing more than attempts at fundamental shifts in global wealth and power on the road to Global Socialism and the planned demise of Western free market capitalism?

Last edited 1 year ago by joelobryan
Bruce Cobb
August 17, 2021 8:26 am

The coal price has skyrocketed in 2021

Carbonistas: “Woohoo! Mission accomplished”.

Keith Rowe
August 17, 2021 8:40 am

The problem is inflation. If everything costs more…then everything will cost more. Capitalism is brutal in it’s truth telling. Standard of living goes down and people will have to make choices at the ballot boxes.

August 17, 2021 8:55 am

Coal-fired power plants have long been big enough to make the building costs economically viable

not everywhere/not any more:

IEEFA: New coal-fired power plants in India will be economically unviable – Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis

“Much of India’s 33 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power capacity currently under construction and another 29GW in the preconstruction stage will end up stranded, according to a new briefing note by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).”

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  griff
August 17, 2021 9:07 am

IEEFA receives its funding from global philanthropic organizations and individuals. We gratefully acknowledge our funders, including the Rockefeller Family Fund,  Energy FoundationMertz-Gilmore FoundationMoxie FoundationRockefeller Brothers FundKR FoundationPark FoundationThe Heinz Endowments, Charles and Helen Brown Foundation, Just Transition Fund, Wallace Global Fund,The 11th Hour Project/The Schmidt Family Foundation, Sequoia Climate Fund and some who choose to remain anonymous.

Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
August 17, 2021 9:43 am

In other words, another Soros anti-human front?

Reply to  griff
August 17, 2021 9:45 am

If the warmistas get their way and outlaw coal, then the plants will be stranded.
Short of that, the claim is nonsense.

Reply to  griff
August 17, 2021 1:22 pm

Nonsense again! India’s growing manufacturing base needs stable baseload electricity supply, the cheapest of which is coal power plant produced electricity.

August 17, 2021 8:58 am

Seriously, it is just China now. China commissioned 38.4 GW1 of new coal plants in 2020, making up over 75% of the global total (50.3 GW). Outside China, less than 12 GW was commissioned and, taking into account closures, the global coal fleet outside China declined by 17.2 GW in 2020.

Outside China, there was a marked slowdown in 2020 commissioning. India, notably, grew its coal fleet by only net 0.7 GW in 2020, after adding an average 15.0 GW a year from 2010 to 2019. There have been cancellations of future coal power across the globe: Bangladesh, Japan, S Korea and Vietnam in particular. Spain closed 47% of its coal capacity last year. German started its coal close programme…

There isn’t a single new coal plant in the planning process in the entire EU now.

Reply to  griff
August 17, 2021 9:46 am

The fact that the warmunistas run most countries is now considered proof that the warmunistas are right about everything.

Reply to  griff
August 17, 2021 10:09 am

And concurrently, prices for power – especially in the poorer nations – has skyrocketed.

Why do you want to keep poor people living without electricity?

Reply to  Shanghai Dan
August 17, 2021 10:59 am

Like most of his ilk, he’s anti-human

Reply to  Shanghai Dan
August 18, 2021 3:53 am

Electricity prices in India have gone up, but nowhere near sky rocketed.

Reply to  griff
August 17, 2021 1:24 pm

Who cares about EU?

Reply to  Lrp
August 17, 2021 6:39 pm

Griff thinks the EU is some shining example … for the rest of us it is lesson in what not to ever become.

Reply to  griff
August 17, 2021 2:26 pm

It’s not just China. Of the 50 coal plants planned in Japan in the last 10 years, 13 have been cancelled, 15 have already come on line (4 large, 11 small), 15 are under construction and will come on line in the next 3 years (13 large, 2 small), and 7 more are still being evaluated (6 large, 1 small).

That’s just Japan. As of the end of 2019, there were 458 coal plants under construction including many outside China (in India and several other SE Asia countries and even a few outside Asia).

Just one more of your assertions that turns out to be a lie, griffter.

August 17, 2021 9:24 am

I believe if we are going to continue to live the lifestyles we are accustomed to, America has to again become Energy Wise, and I believe coal is going to be a big part of that. We have over 500 years of good quality coal available. There are more Btu’s in our coal than there is in our natural gas and oil combined.
Coal with Carbon Capture Utilization can be combusted and emit into the atmosphere less CO2 than a natural gas power plant.
Natural gas needs to be consumed much more efficiently as well. The residential market has it’s high efficiency condensing boilers and water heaters. Why isn’t Condensing Flue Gas Heat Recovery being promoted more for the larger commercial and industrial boilers?
The Electric Vehicle market continues to expand. I say lets give them their own dedicated electric grid powered by solar and wind renewable energy and energy batteries.
Industry and commercial buildings can be powered by reliable 24 /7 /365 coal generated electricity.
Industry can heat buildings and water and produce and process all those items we consume every day with natural gas.
Our transportation system will have oil and gasoline fuels, and also those industries that need oil in their products.
Nuclear Energy ~ Bring it on.

Reply to  Sid Abma
August 17, 2021 9:47 am

Use the coal, dump the carbon capture.

I’ve asked before, how deeply invested are you in this scam?

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Sid Abma
August 17, 2021 12:59 pm

Sid, no one here is buying what you’re selling, but top marks for persistence. You should find a venue with more receptive suckers, er, I mean, participants.

Reply to  Sid Abma
August 17, 2021 2:47 pm

Reply to Sid.
What you have written makes sense and I have to agree.
I think some of these people here did not or cannot read and understand what you are saying .
You believe that the USA has heaps of coal and that it should be used .
You believe that if coal is used to generate electricity the power plants should use carbon capture .
You believe in NUCLEAR power .
You believe in power to the people and power for the people .
You believe that electric automobile batteries should be recharged on a dedicated renewables power grid .
Use the solar and wind in the day time and wind power at night at a cheaper rate .
Any one who is against this should have a good look at their life style.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Graham
August 19, 2021 9:37 am

You believe that if coal is used to generate electricity the power plants should use carbon capture .

Nobody with any sense believes “carbon capture” is needed, because the notion that CO2 emissions drive the climate are nonsense. So use the coal, no “carbon capture” needed.

You believe that electric automobile batteries should be recharged on a dedicated renewables power grid .

Electric automobiles are a stupid idea as presently conceived. Useless for anything beyond short trips during Florida winters. Recharging them using a “dedicated renewables power grid” means they will be even more useless, since they will rarely be able to go anywhere given the “grid” being “on” only at the whim of sunshine and breezes.

Use the solar and wind in the day time and wind power at night at a cheaper rate .

“Renewables” are not and never will be cheap, and require massive tracts of land, and are at the end of the day still 100% dependent upon fossil fuels for their very existence. They are the product of mass stupidity and legalized theft. Anyone who thinks they should be employed at scale should have to live in the middle of a wind farm for 10 years first.

David Kelly
Reply to  Sid Abma
August 20, 2021 1:04 pm


I can’t agree with your comment “Natural gas needs to be consumed much more efficiently as well”.

The U.S. Natural gas prices are selling below production cost because the U.S. has an excess of natural gas. Projections going back as far as 10 years ago, predicted this excess production and it’s expected to last at least another 20 years. So, there is no economic incentive to pay for “efficiency” projects based on the price of natural gas.

That said, most U.S. utilities are already building the highest efficacy gas units in the world because: 1) The new units minimize NOx emissions, and 2) Most utilities plan to get a 40-60 year life out their plants… so they already factor long term cost.

As for nuclear. Well… U.S. electrical consumption is expected to drop with the retirement of the U.S.’s baby boomers. Consequently, there is little incentive to build new nuclear capacity until the U.S. demographic situation changes. Even then, the nuclear industry is going to have to get it’s construction cost under before that happens… no one’s going to finance a 10 year nuclear power construction project with a history of 500% construction cost increases over the construction period.

This is particularly true when a utility can “gap fill” demand requirements with a gas plant which features a 3-year construction timeline; low capital cost; high economics of scale (1,200 MW plants); and low NOx, SO2, and particulate emissions.

As for your renewable solar and wind comment… well I doubt it. We have roughly a 1-year window before U.S. baby boomers retirements start impacting the capital markets. There retirement is expected to produce world-wide capital shortages and the associate higher interest requirements. Biden’s high inflation inducing government spending only accelerates the process… and is quickly making solar and wind even more non-economical. I’d say the capital situation in Europe is roughly an order of magnitude worse.

Gary Pearse
August 17, 2021 10:06 am

The author must surely know that economies of a number other Asian countries are benefitting from coal power big time. Bangladesh has more spectacular GDP growth than China (15%+ the past decade).

Pakistan enjoys 10% growth and they have abundant coal resources, some of them on fire for multi-decades – if coal wasn’t so vilified, possibly steam pipes could be inserted to produce ‘geothermal energy’. Africa has also begun coal power electrification. All this from China’s aggressive ‘Silk Road’ policy.

This will not only not be stopped, it will grow as other poor countries, mainly in Africa, witness the magic of cheap fossil fuel powered economic development. Sixty years of the NGO ‘cottage industry’ (non) development will happily come to an end.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 17, 2021 1:22 pm

Bangladesh cancels 10 coal-fired power plants | Phnom Penh Post

“Bangladesh announced on June 27 that it has scrapped at least 10 major coal-fired power plants as it seeks to scale up its power generation from renewable energy sources.
Nasrul Hamid, the state minister for power and energy, said the decision was taken in light of technological changes and as dozens of countries halt new coal-fired power projects due to their impact on the environment.

“By 2041, there is a plan to generate 40 per cent of power from renewable energy,” the ministry of energy and power said.
The minister said Dhaka would also import hydropower from Nepal and Bhutan.
The scrapped power plants would have accounted for 8,451MW of power and included ambitious multi-billion dollar projects unveiled by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since she took office in January 2009.
The minister said they included a massive 1,320MW plant on the ecologically fragile Maheshkhali island and a 1,200MW project set to be constructed by a Bangladeshi-Japanese joint venture.”

Reply to  griff
August 17, 2021 6:45 pm

The backdrop to that story $185M from the world bank at 0.05% interest which likely will get written off

Any 3rd world country would do the same take the freebie money and build the coal power stations later.

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 12:05 am

“the decision was taken in light of technological changes and as dozens of countries halt new coal-fired power projects due to their impact on the environment.”

Talking bollox again eh?

So if Bangladesh wants to make lots of concrete eg. for their renewable energy installations…(which all moderning economies are bound to do!) how are they supposed to do it without the ash and waste from coal, and without this !!&#!#!# lamer bollox about environmental impacts from the CO2 produced??

Your posts are so full of contradictions, I can’t understand if you have 1 brain cell or 2,-

ie. just to make sure the activity from one, googling dubious media sources, is made to contradict the activity from the other which is supposed to be about policing the stupid statements which basically seem to pop out of your ass.

John Garrett
August 17, 2021 10:07 am

Mentions of the price of coal always send me scurrying to check:

Global price of Coal, Australia Vintage: 2021-08-09  Aug 12, 2021
U.S. Dollars per Metric Ton,

EIA (2009-2019 domestic U.S. prices):

August 17, 2021 10:27 am

“Even in Europe, which is the epicenter for decarbonization, low natural gas inventories are driving a sharp increase in thermal coal imports from virtually every nation,” said Nolan.

Andrew Wilkins
August 17, 2021 11:12 am
August 17, 2021 1:12 pm

Best solar-energy storage ever created.

And a major global greener too!

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  WXcycles
August 17, 2021 2:00 pm

Wonderful stuff, isn’t it? Loads of it here in Australia, the best stuff, pure as driven snow, great for making steel.

The best part? It’s just sitting there. We don’t even have to mine it, we can just pick it up. It’s almost as if someone intended us to use it…

August 17, 2021 4:36 pm

Green Nett Zero Enthusiasts have not noticed that Coal is becoming more and more popular with World Industry and electricity production. Coal suits business which likes scale economies for electricity of over 5GW. Coal is relatively cheap usually and India and China have stable and safe supplies, which business loves.
Coal-fired power electricity generation is predictable and simple, unlike wind and solar, for production of baseload. In their desperate search for any power source than Coal, Greenies have toyed with all manner of useless alternatives like hydrogen, solar, wind and Unicorn Farts. The latter being in very short supply. Nuclear Power is still right off their table.

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
August 18, 2021 12:51 am

In the UK and Europe, the amount of wind or solar is absolutely predictable a day in advance and day ahead electricity prices set as a result.

August 17, 2021 8:52 pm

Fossil fuels – the fuel is the battery, storing energy until it is needed for essentially zero energy loss. For coal the capital required to run the “battery” and provide reliable supply is space for a stockpile, a bulldozer, and 3 to 4 months of working capital for the purchase price of the coal on stock.

For a coal plant the fuel is about a third of the total cost. At a HELE plant total cost of about $65/MW you are playing with about $22/MW as the target you can spend on additional maintenance and capital costs for renewables to be cheaper.

Renewables – low density energy sources are harvested, converted to electricity, then need storage (which loses significant portions of the energy being stored and then released again when needed). This also needs additional generation capacity to cover the losses. For renewables, the working capital to provide reliable supply is astronomical.

This is the brutal reality for renewables advocates. Basic physics and engineering issues which are proving remarkably resistant to legislation.

August 17, 2021 10:47 pm

Why is the left so hyper about the useless and ineffective Paris Accords? Billions of $ to mostly corrupt 3rd world countries to bribe them into staying undeveloped, to avoid a fraction of a degree warming (by their own calculations, mind you) by the end of the century. California has homeless druggies abandoned to living and pooping on the streets and yet the most urgent problem for the idiot political class is an extra couple of degrees of warmth on a cold planet struggling to shake off an ice age.

Reply to  PCman999
August 18, 2021 12:50 am

But it isn’t just a few extra degrees, evenly distributed is it?

It is 5C rise over maximum recorded summer temperatures in places where 40C has hardly been seen before… it is killing heatwaves in previously temperate areas… it is months or a year of rainfall over days… it is long lasting droughts…

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 5:59 am

Griff you are a nutter!
Would you mind proving to us that no heatwaves, or heavy rain events happened before, in your rush to poop bollox out of your ass?

You were having your pampers changed 30yrs ago?
vaison la romaine? Thu 24 Sep 1992 – it got a tad wet…

Ah, I guessed it, you weren’t born in 1976!
I remember it well!

“The 1976 British Isles heat wave led to the second hottest summer average temperature in the UK since records began. At the same time, the country suffered a severe drought. It was one of the driest, sunniest and warmest summers in the 20th century”


“In the Central England Temperature series, 1976 is the hottest summer for more than 350 years. The average temperature over the whole summer (June, July, August) was 17.77 °C”


“MORE than 40 years ago temperatures in the UK soared to 35.6C making it one of the hottest summers ever recorded. The spell of hot weather in 1976 lasted from mid-June to the end of August”

Let’s see now.

Medieval warm period? -1000 yrs

Roman times? -2000 yrs

Egyptian warm period? -4000 yrs

August 18, 2021 3:35 am

Price is up so more will be mined. Coal, real energy for the real world.

very old white guy
August 18, 2021 5:33 am

Cheap, expensive, it doesn’t matter. There will never be anything such as net zero.

Kit P
August 18, 2021 6:23 pm

Reading WUWT can be enriching. After reading the debate about coal I bought $1000 of stock in a coal company in February.

It is now worth $3000.


AGW is Not Science
August 19, 2021 9:20 am

The faster we can remove coal from electricity generation, the higher the likelihood of achieving the Paris Agreement targets.

Who cares about the Paris Agreement?! Meaningless political posturing and pushing of the “climate crisis” propaganda. And the “target” for China, as a fine example, is to “PEAK their emissions by 2030.” So rapidly building up coal fired power plants is part of the delusional “Paris Agreement.”

Unless coal prices remain permanently high (unlikely), or the cost of carbon emissions is more prohibitive due to taxes or carbon trading schemes (possible, but perhaps not everywhere), or there is direct government intervention to decommission plants, coal may yet surprise us all and persist for longer than we expect. For the sake of the next and following generations, let us hope it will not.

Let us hope it will persist. And let us hope that the mass stupidity of wind and solar will be rapidly abandoned.

Coal provides ideal base load electric generation. The fuel is not volatile, is easily and safely stockpiled and thereby is mostly immune to disruptions in the supply chain. It is also plentiful. There is no reason not to use coal, unless inflicting poverty is the goal.

Last edited 1 year ago by AGW is Not Science
David Kelly
August 20, 2021 12:24 pm

U.S., domestic prices remain relativity low, so there is no need for U.S. power consumers to panic. According to the U.S. EIA, spot market prices as of Aug 13 2021 were:

Central Appalachian – $61.95/short ton (1 short ton = 0.907 metric tons
Northern Appalachian – $55.05/short ton
Illinois Basin – $35.10/short/ton (normally this is ILB 5)
Powder River Basin (PRB) – $11.50/short ton
Uinta Basin – $30.30/short ton


Most U.S. utilities switched from Central Appalachian, Uinta, ILB 5 to PRB years ago — in a bid to lower cost and decrease NOx emissions. The high grade Central & Northern Appalachian coals are now used primarily in steel production.

If anything, the world price hikes give U.S. utilities, industries, and steel producers a competitive advantage compared to the rest of the world. Mexico and Central America, close to U.S. reserves, also retain an advantage (with price in the $55-$66/short ton… Canada not so much at $87.40/short ton.

The major regions areas impacted the most by the recent world coals price hikes are:

Europe – $112.72/short ton
China – $106.82/short ton
South America – $104.72/short/ton
Japan – $99.72/short ton

Country’s that have experience only moderate price increases include: India ($74.41/short ton), and South Korea ($62.08/short ton).

See Export prices at

Last edited 1 year ago by David Kelly
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