From the Australian Financial Review, Oct. 13:
South-east Asian coal demand is set to triple in the next 25 years, bucking a global trend and giving Australia's coal exporters a sorely needed boost, a new International Energy Agency report predicts.
The forecast surge in demand for energy coal – also known as thermal coal and Australia's third-biggest export – in south-east Asia comes as China's demand is thought by some analysts to have peaked and India focuses on renewables and domestic coal production.
The report is a rare piece of good news for Australia's struggling coal producers because the growth in domestic energy demand in south-east Asia will exceed the capacity of domestic suppliers, especially Indonesia, to expand to meet it.
As a result, the International Energy Agency predicts that Australia will surpass Indonesia as the world's largest thermal coal exporter again by 2020, regaining a position it gave up in 2006.
The growth of coal power generation in south-east Asia comes as Australian financial institutions face global pressure to walk away from coal. Many expect a United Nations climate conference in December to bring a global agreement to reduce planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions – of which coal is the biggest source.
Chinese group Shenhua's Watermark coal mine in north-western NSW and Indian group Adani's Carmichael mine in Queensland are awaiting federal government approval, in the face of persistent protests by farmers and green groups.
South-east Asia's embrace of coal comes with a geopolitical twist.
STEP INTO THE BREACH