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New report says Asian coal demand will help Australian mines but critic questions findings

Asian coal demand will rise from 740 million tonnes a year last year to almost 1150 million tonnes a year in 2030, a new report commissioned for the Minerals Council of Australia has found.

The Market Demand Study report by consultants Commodity Insights paints an optimistic picture for the Hunter coal industry, which supplies most of Australia’s export coal for thermal power stations.

The 52-page report looks at coal demand on a nation-by-nation basis and says that “even half the growth we have forecast, or 200 million tonnes, is still a significant opportunity and equivalent to the entire 2017 Australian thermal coal exports”.

But prominent coal critic Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has criticised the report as “a lobbyist report parading as research” for failing to mention climate change and for counting the number of coal-fired power stations expected to open in Asia but not those scheduled to close.

Mr Buckley said that while the minerals council report said that coal power was growing, he and other critics believed the opposite.

He cited other recent work including a new report produced by Coal Swarm, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, titled Boom and Bust 2018, tracking the global coal plant pipeline, which said: “With declining deployment and high levels of retirement, coal power capacity is now caught in a squeeze: if current trends continue, by 2022 yearly retirements will exceed new capacity and the global coal fleet will begin to shrink.”

The Commodity Insights report published earlier this month says the growth it predicts until 2030 is at a lower rate than the past decade but “not inconsistent with historical growth patterns”.

Although the report does not directly mention climate change it does consider the amount of renewable generation, and renewable energy targets, in more than a dozen Asian markets for Hunter coal.

“The short-term forecast was based on known additions of coal-fired power capacity across the region, less any growth in domestic coal production where applicable,” the report says.

“Longer-term, population growth forecasts and electricity consumption patterns were used to forecast overall power demand, against which coal’s share was estimated using official government policy documents for each country.”

The report says the Asian expansion presents a significant opportunity for Australian mining but says there are challenges including long and expensive approvals processes with a “volume of red and green tape (that) is extremely onerous, and possibly out of balance with other jurisdictions.”
Source: The Herald

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