In Europe, Coal Regains Its Crown
According to BP’s “Statistical Review of World Energy,” released last month, coal consumption in Europe went up 3.3% last year over 2010. Germany, the biggest consumer of coal in Europe, consumed 77.6 million tonnes (85.5 U.S. tons) of coal in 2011, 1.2% more than 2010. Coal consumption in debt-plagued Spain jumped by more than half last year.
That expansion led to a 49 percent jump in imports from the United States in the first quarter of 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The reasons for Europe’s backsliding on coal dependency are purely financial: cheap coal imports from the U.S. have boosted profit margins at coal-fired power plants to a two-and-a-half year high, according to Bloomberg, while carbon permits – the centerpiece of the EU Emissions Trading System – have dropped to prices that make it more reasonable to burn coal and pay for the permits, rather than shifting to renewables or other relatively high-cost fuels. Permit prices have fallen about 17% this year, to around €8 ($10) per ton, even as the EU hands out free “transition” allowances to utilities in Poland and elsewhere.