After falling in 2019 and 2020, global power generation from coal is expected to grow 9% in 2021 to an all-time high of 10,350 terawatt-hours, according to recent analyses by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The rebound is driven by rapid economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed up electricity demand faster than low-carbon sources can supply. A jump in natural gas prices also increased demand for coal power by making it more cost-competitive.

Overall coal demand worldwide is forecast to grow by 6% in 2021. That increase will not surpass the recordSource: IEASource: IEA levels reached in 2013 and 2014. But, depending on weather patterns and economic growth, overall coal demand could reach new all-time highs as soon as 2022 and remain at that level for the following two years.

In China, home to more than half of global coal-fired electricity generation, coal power is expected to grow by 9% in 2021 despite a deceleration at the end of the year. In India, it is forecast to grow by 12%. This would set new all-time highs in both countries, even as they roll out impressive amounts of solar and wind capacity. While coal power generation is set to increase by almost 20% this year in the U.S. and the European Union, that is not enough to take it above 2019 levels. Coal use in those two markets is expected to go back into decline next year amid slow electricity demand growth and rapid expansion of renewable power.

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