Which Countries Have the World’s 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:
|Country||Coal Reserves (million tonnes)||Share of Global Reserves||Region|
|U.S. 🇺🇸||248,941||23%||North America|
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.
Mapped: Renewable Energy and Battery Installations in the U.S. in 2023
This graphic describes new U.S. renewable energy installations by state along with nameplate capacity, planned to come online in 2023.
Renewable and Battery Installations in the U.S. in 2023
Renewable energy, in particular solar power, is set to shine in 2023. This year, the U.S. plans to get over 80% of its new energy installations from sources like battery, solar, and wind.
The above map uses data from EIA to highlight planned U.S. renewable energy and battery storage installations by state for 2023.
Texas and California Leading in Renewable Energy
Nearly every state in the U.S. has plans to produce new clean energy in 2023, but it’s not a surprise to see the two most populous states in the lead of the pack.
Even though the majority of its power comes from natural gas, Texas currently leads the U.S. in planned renewable energy installations. The state also has plans to power nearly 900,000 homes using new wind energy.
California is second, which could be partially attributable to the passing of Title 24, an energy code that makes it compulsory for new buildings to have the equipment necessary to allow the easy installation of solar panels, battery storage, and EV charging.
New solar power in the U.S. isn’t just coming from places like Texas and California. In 2023, Ohio will add 1,917 MW of new nameplate solar capacity, with Nevada and Colorado not far behind.
|Top 10 States||Battery (MW)||Solar (MW)||Wind (MW)||Total (MW)|
The state of New York is also looking to become one of the nation’s leading renewable energy providers. The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) is making real strides towards this objective with 11% of the nation’s new wind power projects expected to come online in 2023.
According to the data, New Hampshire is the only state in the U.S. that has no new utility-scale renewable energy installations planned for 2023. However, the state does have plans for a massive hydroelectric plant that should come online in 2024.
Renewable energy is considered essential to reduce global warming and CO2 emissions.
In line with the efforts by each state to build new renewable installations, the Biden administration has set a goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and a net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.
The EIA forecasts the share of U.S. electricity generation from renewable sources rising from 22% in 2022 to 23% in 2023 and to 26% in 2024.
Where are Clean Energy Technologies Manufactured?
As the market for low-emission solutions expands, China dominates the production of clean energy technologies and their components.
Visualizing Where Clean Energy Technologies Are Manufactured
When looking at where clean energy technologies and their components are made, one thing is very clear: China dominates the industry.
The country, along with the rest of the Asia Pacific region, accounts for approximately 75% of global manufacturing capacity across seven clean energy technologies.
Based on the IEA’s 2023 Energy Technology Perspectives report, the visualization above breaks down global manufacturing capacity by region for mass-manufactured clean energy technologies, including onshore and offshore wind, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, electric vehicles (EVs), fuel cell trucks, heat pumps, and electrolyzers.
The State of Global Manufacturing Capacity
Manufacturing capacity refers to the maximum amount of goods or products a facility can produce within a specific period. It is determined by several factors, including:
- The size of the manufacturing facility
- The number of machines or production lines available
- The skill level of the workforce
- The availability of raw materials
According to the IEA, the global manufacturing capacity for clean energy technologies may periodically exceed short-term production needs. Currently this is true especially for EV batteries, fuel cell trucks, and electrolyzers. For example, while only 900 fuel cell trucks were sold globally in 2021, the aggregate self-reported capacity by manufacturers was 14,000 trucks.
With that said, there still needs to be a significant increase in manufacturing capacity in the coming decades if demand aligns with the IEA’s 2050 net-zero emissions scenario. Such developments require investments in new equipment and technology, developing the clean energy workforce, access to raw and refined materials, and optimizing production processes to improve efficiency.
What Gives China the Advantage?
Of the above clean energy technologies and their components, China averages 65% of global manufacturing capacity. For certain components, like solar PV wafers, this percentage is as high as 96%.
Here’s a breakdown of China’s manufacturing capacity per clean energy technology.
|Technology||China’s share of global manufacturing capacity, 2021|
|Solar PV Systems||85%|
|Fuel Cell Trucks||47%|
So, what gives China this advantage in the clean energy technology sector? According to the IEA report, the answer lies in a combination of factors:
- Low manufacturing costs
- A dominance in clean energy metal processing, namely cobalt, lithium, and rare earth metals
- Sustained policy support and investment
The mixture of these factors has allowed China to capture a significant share of the global market for clean technologies while driving down the cost of clean energy worldwide.
As the market for low-emission solutions expands, China’s dominance in the sector will likely continue in the coming years and have notable implications for the global energy and emission landscape.
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