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Which Countries Have the World’s Largest Coal Reserves?

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The Countries With the Largest Coal Reserves

The Countries With the Largest Coal Reserves

Cheap and abundant coal remains one of the largest sources of energy worldwide, even as governments set out goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While jurisdictions in Europe and North America have been phasing out coal use in power generation, it has been on the rise in Asia. China and India are scrambling to provide electricity to a growing population and relying on coal power plants to meet demands despite the environmental costs.

This infographic takes a look into the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021, and the 11 countries that make up 89% of the coal reserves globally.

Coal Reserves, by Country

While countries need to phase out coal by 2040 to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC, consumption in key markets is forecast to increase for the next few years and coal-fired electricity generation could hit a record in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency.

China leads the consumption, buying more than half of the global production and also producing 50% of the world’s coal.

Although the country recently announced a plan to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, it is still building coal power projects elsewhere in the world, according to the Coal Finance Tracker by EndCoal. Japan and South Korea are also still strongly financing coal extraction in Southeast Asia.

A shortlist of countries in four continents control ~1 billion tonnes of coal:

CountryCoal Reserves (million tonnes)Share of Global ReservesRegion
U.S. 🇺🇸248,94123%North America
Russia 🇷🇺162,16615%Europe
Australia 🇦🇺150,22714%Oceania
China 🇨🇳143,19713%Asia
India 🇮🇳111,05210%Asia
Germany 🇩🇪35,9003%Europe
Indonesia 🇮🇩34,8693%Asia
Ukraine 🇺🇦34,3753%Europe
Poland 🇵🇱28,3952%Europe
Kazakhstan 🇰🇿25,6052%Asia
Turkey 🇹🇷11,5251%Europe

To put the numbers into perspective, the world has about 139 years of coal left at current consumption levels and excluding unproven reserves.

What are the Different Types of Coal?

Coal is formed when dead plant matter submerged in swamp environments is subjected to heat and pressure over hundreds of millions of years. Over time, the plant matter turns into a carbon-dense black or brownish-black sedimentary rock – coal.

There are four major types or “ranks” of coal, based on the types and amounts of carbon the coal contains and on the amount of heat energy the coal can produce:

  • Anthracite: The highest rank, is a hard, brittle, and black lustrous substance. It contains a high percentage of fixed carbon and is mainly used in stoves, furnaces, and water filtration systems. Formation: 300-360 million years old.
  • Bituminous: Middle rank, usually has a high heating (Btu) value and is used in electricity generation and steel-making. Formation: 100-300 million years old.
  • Sub-bituminous: Black, not shiny, it has low-to-moderate heating values and is mainly used in electricity generation. Formation: 100 million years old.
  • Lignite: Also called brown coal, it has the least concentration of carbon, low heating value, and is mainly used in electricity generation. Formation: 250 million years old.

Anthracite and bituminous coal make up 70% of coal reserves. The other 30% are divided between sub-bituminous and lignite.

The Future of Coal

Coal combustion still accounts for 40% of global CO2 emissions from energy use, despite all the efforts to reduce the share of power generated by fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, the coal mining industry employs about 8 million people and creates revenues of more than US$900 billion a year.

While growth in coal investments is slowing, coal use is unlikely to decline substantially in the medium term.

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Energy Shift

Mapped: Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

America has 92 reactors in operation, providing about 20% of the country’s electricity.

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Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

Mapped: Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, representing more than 30% of the world’s nuclear power generation.

America has 92 reactors in operation, providing about 20% of the country’s electricity.

The above infographic uses data from the International Atomic Energy Agency to showcase every single nuclear reactor in America.

Nuclear Development

Nuclear power in the U.S. dates back to the 1950s.

George Westinghouse produced the first commercial pressurized water reactor in 1957 in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. The technology is used in approximately half of the 450 nuclear power reactors worldwide.

Today, over 30 different power companies across 30 states operate nuclear facilities in the U.S., and most nuclear power reactors are located east of the Mississippi River.

Illinois has more reactors than any state, with 11 reactors and the largest total nuclear electricity generation capacity at about 11,582 megawatts (MW). Meanwhile, the largest reactor is at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Port Gibson, Mississippi, with a capacity of about 1,500 MW.

Most American reactors in operation were built between 1967 and 1990. Until 2013 there had been no new constructions started since 1977, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Usually, U.S. power reactors receive a license to operate for 60 years. The oldest operating reactor, Nine Mile Point Unit 1 in New York, began commercial operation in December 1969. The newest reactor to enter service, Watts Bar Unit 2, came online in 2016.

The Future of Nuclear Power in the U.S.

U.S. nuclear power’s capacity peaked in 2012 at about 102,000 MW, with 104 operating nuclear reactors operating.

US nuclear generation and capacity

Since nuclear plants generate nearly 20% of U.S. electricity and about half of the country’s carbon‐free electricity, the recent push from the Biden administration to reduce fossil fuels and increase clean energy will require significant new nuclear capacity.

Today, there are two new reactors under construction (Vogtle 3 and 4) in Georgia, expected to come online before 2023.

Furthermore, some of the Inflation Reduction Act provisions include incentives for the nuclear industry. Starting in 2024, for example, utilities will be able to get a credit of $15 per megawatt-hour for electricity produced by existing nuclear plants. Nuclear infrastructure projects could also be eligible for up to $250 billion worth of loans to update, repurpose, and revitalize energy infrastructure that has stopped working.

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Energy Shift

What is the Cost of Europe’s Energy Crisis?

As European gas prices soar, countries are introducing policies to try and curb the energy crisis.

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What is the Cost of Europe’s Energy Crisis?

Europe is scrambling to cut its reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

As European gas prices soar eight times their 10-year average, countries are introducing policies to curb the impact of rising prices on households and businesses. These include everything from the cost of living subsidies to wholesale price regulation. Overall, funding for such initiatives has reached $276 billion as of August.

With the continent thrown into uncertainty, the above chart shows allocated funding by country in response to the energy crisis.

The Energy Crisis, In Numbers

Using data from Bruegel, the below table reflects spending on national policies, regulation, and subsidies in response to the energy crisis for select European countries between September 2021 and July 2022. All figures in U.S. dollars.

CountryAllocated Funding Percentage of GDPHousehold Energy Spending,
Average Percentage
🇩🇪 Germany$60.2B1.7%9.9%
🇮🇹 Italy$49.5B2.8%10.3%
🇫🇷 France$44.7B1.8%8.5%
🇬🇧 U.K.$37.9B1.4%11.3%
🇪🇸 Spain$27.3B2.3%8.9%
🇦🇹 Austria$9.1B2.3%8.9%
🇵🇱 Poland$7.6B1.3%12.9%
🇬🇷 Greece$6.8B3.7%9.9%
🇳🇱 Netherlands$6.2B0.7%8.6%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic$5.9B2.5%16.1%
🇧🇪 Belgium$4.1B0.8%8.2%
🇷🇴 Romania$3.8B1.6%12.5%
🇱🇹 Lithuania$2.0B3.6%10.0%
🇸🇪 Sweden$1.9B0.4%9.2%
🇫🇮 Finland$1.2B0.5%6.1%
🇸🇰 Slovakia$1.0B1.0%14.0%
🇮🇪 Ireland$1.0B0.2%9.2%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria$0.8B1.2%11.2%
🇱🇺 Luxembourg$0.8B1.1%n/a
🇭🇷 Croatia$0.6B1.1%14.3%
🇱🇻 Lativia$0.5B1.4%11.6%
🇩🇰 Denmark$0.5B0.1%8.2%
🇸🇮 Slovenia$0.3B0.5%10.4%
🇲🇹 Malta$0.2B1.4%n/a
🇪🇪 Estonia$0.2B0.8%10.9%
🇨🇾 Cyprus$0.1B0.7%n/a

Source: Bruegel, IMF. Euro and pound sterling exchange rates to U.S. dollar as of August 25, 2022.

Germany is spending over $60 billion to combat rising energy prices. Key measures include a $300 one-off energy allowance for workers, in addition to $147 million in funding for low-income families. Still, energy costs are forecasted to increase by an additional $500 this year for households.

In Italy, workers and pensioners will receive a $200 cost of living bonus. Additional measures, such as tax credits for industries with high energy usage were introduced, including a $800 million fund for the automotive sector.

With energy bills predicted to increase three-fold over the winter, households in the U.K. will receive a $477 subsidy in the winter to help cover electricity costs.

Meanwhile, many Eastern European countries—whose households spend a higher percentage of their income on energy costs— are spending more on the energy crisis as a percentage of GDP. Greece is spending the highest, at 3.7% of GDP.

Utility Bailouts

Energy crisis spending is also extending to massive utility bailouts.

Uniper, a German utility firm, received $15 billion in support, with the government acquiring a 30% stake in the company. It is one of the largest bailouts in the country’s history. Since the initial bailout, Uniper has requested an additional $4 billion in funding.

Not only that, Wien Energie, Austria’s largest energy company, received a €2 billion line of credit as electricity prices have skyrocketed.

Deepening Crisis

Is this the tip of the iceberg? To offset the impact of high gas prices, European ministers are discussing even more tools throughout September in response to a threatening energy crisis.

To reign in the impact of high gas prices on the price of power, European leaders are considering a price ceiling on Russian gas imports and temporary price caps on gas used for generating electricity, among others.

Price caps on renewables and nuclear were also suggested.

Given the depth of the situation, the chief executive of Shell said that the energy crisis in Europe would extend beyond this winter, if not for several years.

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