Coal and the 'writing on the wall'?
News out of Europe this past week may have given yet another indication of the future direction of coal-powered energy.
Sweden, in closing its last coal-fired power station two years ahead of schedule, has become the third European country to exit coal completely after Belgium closed its last coal power station in 2016, and Austria ended its final coal-fired energy operations earlier this month, reports The Independent. The plant at Värtaverket, in Hjorthagen in eastern Stockholm, is owned by Stockholm Exergi, a company part owned by the City of Stockholm.
The Swedish capital is planning for its district heating to be produced entirely by renewable or recycled energy by 2030. District heating, which is used in many European cities, tends to provide higher efficiencies and less pollution than localised boilers in each home.
“This plant has provided the Stockholmers with heat and electricity for a long time; today we know that we must stop using all fossil fuels, therefore the coal needs to be phased out and we do so several years before the original plan,” said Anders Egelrud, Chief Executive of Stockholm Exergi.
Similarly, the UK has now gone an entire month without using coal-generated electricity, according to Gizmodo. We should nevertheless remember that over the same period, 30% of the UK’s electricity came from gas and a further 21% from nuclear power.
We know here in Australia of the reluctance of the finance industry to provide any funding for coal-fired electricity, leading coal-supporting elements of the parliament to suggest the idea of a taxpayer-funded financing of a coal-fired power. Now Norway’s wealth fund — the world’s largest at over US$1 trillion — has announced it is excluding some of the world’s largest commodity companies from its portfolio due to their use and production of coal.
Among those companies excluded are Glencore, Anglo-American, German utility RWE and Australia’s AGL. Norway’s parliament decided in June 2019 that it would exclude any company that mined more than 20 million tonnes of coal, or generated more than 10 GW of electricity from coal, in a year.
The fund now holds about 1.5% of globally listed shares and its decisions are often followed by other investors.
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