Coal returns to center stage – Opinion

With a current power deficit touching 5,500 MW in the country, Pakistan is struggling to find a sustainable fuel solution for its power generation amid rising prices and global fuel shortages. Meanwhile, many European countries are temporarily considering refocusing on coal use to counter the same situation, as their energy security comes into question following the ban on importing fuel sources from Russia.

In a shocking move, Orsted, a Denmark-based energy company that is a world leader in renewable energy, announced that it would increase electricity production by using more coal as its source.

“Nevertheless, we hate it very much, we are very likely to see a brief increase in our coal consumption, compared to the trajectory we are currently on,” said Mads Nipper, chief executive of Orsted.

Amid the energy catastrophe in Europe triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nipper further said that increasing the use of coal was a “necessary short-term evil.” Although Orsted is the “world leader” in offshore wind energy, Nipper acknowledged that due to the development time required, wind energy could not help cope with the situation in a short period of time. .

In fact, Orsted is not alone in considering a return to coal as an option to fill the anticipated fuel shortage, many European countries are following the same course while suspending their commitment to reduce carbon emissions made at the UN. Climate Change Conference (COP26).

Recently, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced that the country could reopen coal-fired power plants to fill its imminent energy supply gap that could emerge while reducing its dependence on Russia, which currently represents 45% Italian gas needs.

Besides Italy, Czechia, Bulgaria, Romania and Germany have also indicated that they may burn more coal in the short term in response to Russian aggression.

Germany’s ruling coalition has agreed a relief package worth around 16 billion euros to ease the burden of rising energy costs, with measures ranging from a three-month drop in fuel prices to a temporary increase in the use of coal.

“There is a temporary role for coal, which we hoped would be out of the energy mix by the end of this decade. But it will stay for longer. We will need it until we find sources Until then, even the greenest government will not phase out coal,” Václav Bartuška, energy security commissioner for the Czech government, told the Seznam Zpravy news site.

In a recent interview for the BBC, EU Green Deal Commissioner Frans Timmermans noted that countries could stay with coal longer if they immediately switch to renewables instead of gas. He also mentioned the fact that some of the coal-fired power plants may have to stay online longer than expected to cope with the continent’s power deficit. “We’re not immediately saying no to all fossil fuels,” he said. “If this is combined with faster investments in renewable energy – for the climate and for our energy self-sufficiency – this could be two wins.” “It could still be within the parameters we have set for our climate policy,” he said.

Although increasing the use of coal is not included in the official 10-point plan published this month by the IEA to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian energy supplies, the IEA recognizes that switching to coal would provide a quick and short-term solution to today’s energy challenges. .

“We estimate that a temporary switch from gas to coal or fuel oil could reduce gas demand for electricity by around 28 billion cubic meters before there is an overall increase in emissions related to energy from the EU,” the agency wrote in its plan to reduce dependence on Russian gas.

“If international gas prices remain high, then far fewer people can afford to use it. And what is the cheapest alternative? Coal,” said Edward Chow, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Currently, a significant portion of Pakistan’s energy mix is ​​geared towards imported energy sources such as RLNG, fuel oil and diesel. Ironically, reliance on these sources not only leads to widening of the gap between demand and supply due to common disruptions in the global supply chain, but also contributes significantly to the account deficit. growing current of the country. On the other hand, after a massive discovery of coal deposits of three billion tons in the Thar of Sindh, Pakistan now has a hope of energy self-sufficiency. Although Pakistan has set an ambitious target of shifting 60% of its energy mix to renewables, it may also be wise for the country to temporarily delay its commitment, just like European countries, and switch to local coal in less in the short term to reduce its dependence on expensive imported fuels and therefore greater energy insecurity.

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Business Recorder)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Comments are closed.