Coal: Abundant and Cheap

Coal accounts for around a quarter of all energy produced globally. Its main use is for power generation, although it is also used in homes for winter heating, especially in poorer countries. The main advantage of coal is that it is abundant and easy to transport. Coal is usually sold on the open market in US dollars per tonne, although pricing can also be based on its calorific value, which varies greatly across the different grades of coal. These range from poor quality grades such as lignite that produce relatively little energy to high density grades such as anthracite which are more costly and often have specialist uses.


Coal is a widely available solid fuel. It can be transported cheaply and is used for power generation, in industry and manufacturing, as well as for home heating.

The Hidden Costs

Many power companies use coal to fuel their power generation plants because it is cheap. Reserves of coal are found all round the world, and the amount of coal under the earth far exceeds the reserve of oil and gas. Coal is much less subject to the geopolitical pressures that lead to such intense volatility in oil and gas prices. But there are hidden costs. Coal is a much more pollutive energy source than oil and gas, although because it is mainly used for power generation in developed countries, it often escapes the attention of environmentalists. In many lesser developed countries, particularly in South and South East Asia, coal is still used in the home and has an enormous health impact, causing diseases from bronchitis to cancers.

  • Coal: Percentage of primary Energy Demand 24% 24%
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