Coal will continue to contribute towards meeting global power demands well into the future, which automatically makes the role of new projects like Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, Mangoola coal mine, etc., important to beef up production capabilities.
For far too long, advocates of green energy have promulgated visions of a future where renewable projects operate with very little impact on the land. Although significant advances have been made in this regard, the results are underwhelming at best. The ongoing global power crisis has highlighted the shortcomings of a sector which is widely regarded as the savior of the human race.
According to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, electricity demand is set to increase by 5 and 4 per cent in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Fossil fuel-based power generation is expected to cover 45 per cent in 2021 and another 40 per cent in 2022 of the additional power demand. The unexpected surge in global demand has put the onus on power companies to step up power generation and the situation is no different in Australia. Faced with such circumstances, most countries are seeking the relative safety and comfort of coal to meet energy requirements.
Even countries which are sitting comfortably in terms of adopting renewable energy are facing power crunches. Local authorities in these areas are directing fossil fuel-powered plants to resume or step up operations accordingly. Sadly, this crisis is the result of their own making for many of these countries. In a bid to make a quick transition to green energy, fossil fuel-based plants have been readily discarded. However, Australia hasn’t made the mistake of discarding the mining industry altogether, which contributes huge sums to the country’s GDP. Instead, the country intends to find a middle ground and look for a seamless transition.
For a country like Australia, where coal exports totaled AU$ 55 billion (USD 40 billion) in 2020, this is an opportune moment to rake in the bills which can be disinvested towards developing cleaner technology. The country’s mineral rich region of Queensland is dotted with projects like BHP’s Peaks Down and Goonyella Riverside mines, the Adani Carmichael coal mine, Coronado’s Curragh coal mine, etc., which also supplement the local economy.
The question facing the world today is not whether coal-based power generation should be done away with. The real question is if renewable energy genuinely possesses the capacity to replace fossil fuels as the primary source of power generation. One of the major challenges faced by the renewables sector is the issue of intermittency. On paper, such issues are easily resolved by drawing up blueprints for mega-solar and wind farms and hybrid projects. However, the reality is different.
Shunting coal power generation is not the answer nor the solution we can afford, as clearly demonstrated by Germany. This is not to say that green energy has failed. Renewables can no doubt become significant contributors to the global energy security but it would be unwise to completely write-off fossil fuel as relics of the past. Even the IEA, by its own admission, has stated that renewable energy ‘still isn’t where it needs to be for reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century’.
Thus, coal will have a role to play in meeting global power demands well into the future. This automatically makes new projects like Adani Carmichael coal mine, Coronado’s Curragh coal mine, etc., feasible investments which will continue to pay out in the long term.