Coal should remain the most important energy source in 2040: head of the World Coal Association

India has brought “pragmatism” to the coal debate, says Michelle Manook

India has brought “pragmatism” to the coal debate, says Michelle Manook

Coal is not going away and will remain the most important fuel in the energy sector through 2040, World Coal Association (WCA) CEO Michelle Manook said on Thursday.

Ms. Manook spoke in Kolkata at an event where the WCA announced a partnership with Gainwell Engineering to promote sustainable coal mining in India.

“Coal has a future, and given the current confluence of energy events that you’re seeing, there’s a great understanding and belief, as I said in my opening remarks, that the energy trilemma is something that really needs to be addressed. This is about affordability, energy security and reliability,” she said.

Ms Manook pointed out that even the International Energy Association forecasts for 2040 that coal will still be the largest contributor at around 22-23%. “The energy pie is getting bigger, but coal will still be an important part of the pie,” she added. The comments come at a time when the world is attempting to shift its focus from coal to renewable energy to achieve “net-zero” emissions levels.

The CEO of WCA, a global advisory body, added that India has brought “pragmatism” to the coal debate. “The WCA welcomes India’s position on the issue of unabated coal versus coal phase-out. Coal is still the largest energy source in the world. Recent and current events reaffirm that coal is still needed and not declining. Coal doesn’t go away; it’s just transitioning to a more sustainable model,” added Ms. Manook.

At the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2070. The Prime Minister also announced that India will get 50% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030 and cut its CO2 emissions by 1 billion tons by the same year. According to the Economic Survey 2021-22, coal demand in India is estimated at 1.3-1.5 billion tons by 2030, a 63% increase from current demand.

Panagarh plant

Sunil Chaturvedi, Chair of Gainwell Engineering, welcomed his organization’s membership of the WCA, adding that while concerns about climate change and air pollution have emphasized the need to embark on a more sustainable path forward, “No discussion of global climate change must allow India ignore, and no discussion of India’s energy future can ignore coal.”

Dipankar Banerjee, Chief Operating Officer, Mining Company, Gainwell Engineering, said the company will invest around £500 million to build its underground mining equipment manufacturing facility in the Panagarh Industrial Zone in West Bengal. The facility will be built on a 35 hectare site and its first phase will be completed by the first quarter of 2023. The company will manufacture machines for underground coal mining, material handling and railroad equipment. Gainwell Engineering has entered into a technology license agreement with global company Caterpillar to build such facilities.

Asked about the closure of the underground mines of Coal India, the world’s largest coal mining company, Mr Banerjee said that 44% of the company was engaged in underground mining, but only 3.7% of its production came from such mines and was suffering losses. However, officials from Gainwell Engineering added that Coal India is looking for 50 new underground mines where technology and machinery could play an important role.

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