Global consumption of commercial energy totalled 18 billion tonnes of coal equivalent (Gtce) in 2010. Coal, with a 28% share, ranked second after oil as one of the major sources of primary energy. World coal production reached 7.2 billion tonnes in 2010: 6.2 billion tonnes of hard coal and 1.0 billion tonnes of lignite. In turn, the production of hard coal comprised 5.3 billion tonnes of steam coal and 0.9 billon tonnes of coking coal.
Over the last decade, from 2000 to 2010, coal use has grown more strongly than any other primary energy source (+ 28%). Trends in coal use differ by region. In OECD countries, coal consumption remained stable over the last decade; in the EU, there was a 14 % drop. In contrast, coal demand in developing countries increased dramatically. Growth in non-OECD countries amounted to 1.7 Gtce over the decade, a 94 % increase.
The main driver was China, where coal consumption increased from 1.1 Gtce in 2000 to 2.4 Gtce in 2010. Thus, China accounted for 84 % of the growth in world coal consumption; India accounted for 12 %.
For power generation, coal plays a major role in both developed and developing countries. In 2010, 41% of global power generation was based on coal: 37% hard coal and 4% lignite. On an electricity production cost basis, lignite-fired power plants are very competitive with most alternatives. While the actual cost varies from region to region and depends on many factors, the economic contribution of low-cost electricity from lignite is of great value to economies across the EU.
Similarly, hard coal contributes to energy supply security at an affordable cost. In addition, coal and lignite mines sit at the centre of a long value chain – creating wealth in other sectors of the domestic economy, from mining equipment suppliers to operators of power plants.