Global Coal Consumption Keeps Rising, But Growth Is Slowing


Global coal consumption keeps rising, reaching 3,826.7 million tons of oil equivalent (mtoe) in 2013.1 (See Figure 1.) This represents a 3 percent increase from the previous year, and it came on the heels of 2.6 percent growth in 2012.2 But the pace of growth is down from 7.1 percent in 2010 and 5.4 percent in 2011, when economies rebounded from the Great Recession.3 Consumption rose from 1,074 mtoe in 1950 to 2,261 mtoe in 1988, after which it leveled off at around 2,200–2,300 mtoe in the 1990s before resuming strong growth.4

Coal Figure 1

Looking at recent developments by region, energy-hungry emerging economies have been driving the expansion in coal use since the beginning of this century. China used 1,933 mtoe in 2013, and India, 324 mtoe.5 In contrast, coal consumption in the United States and the European Union (EU) is declining. These countries have been replacing part of their coal consumption with natural gas and renewable energy, although China is taking steps in the same direction. The United States used 455.7 mtoe in 2013.6 The EU, at 285.4 mtoe, accounts for over 56 percent of the consumption of the Eurasian region; Russia uses 93.5 mtoe.7 (See Figure 2.)

Coal Figure 2

The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects world coal demand to reach 6,350 mtoe in 2040, but it expects the growth rate to drop to 0.5 percent annually, principally because of weaker demand in countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.8

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