The gains have already pushed up the electricity prices from Britain to Italy – and coupled with the highest prices in a decade for carbon emissions—have prompted utilities to burn more natural gas. China is notably known as the world’s biggest coal consuming nation. Its demand for the fuel and supply glitches at the main coal hubs across the Atlantic basin have driven up prices since March end.
Hans Gunnar Navik, a senior analyst at StormGeo AS stated that the cost of commodity delivery in Europe in 2019 has risen as much as 10% this year—and will break through its next psychological barrier of $100 within a few weeks. The commodity reached as much as $93.75 a ton on August 30, and the quarterly contract went as high as $99.55 a ton the day before.
Coal’s strength in Europe is even more surprising given that governments across the continent are working to close power plants using the fuel, making good on commitments to rein in greenhouse gas pollution. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had nominated a panel to advise her on when the nation can close all its coal plants. The UK on the other hand, plans to shut the last of its stations that use the fuel by 2025.
“Coal prices could rise on continued trends and support prices for longer,” Navik stated. “The most decisive driver though, we find is China’s economic growth and policy on domestic coal production.”
Power demand in the Middle Kingdom may rise by as much as 7.6% this year, Bloomberg Intelligence stated in a note on August 28. While China is working to scale back the share coal has in its powered generation mix to 34% by 2050– its needs for the fuel have been strong in recent years to feed its booming economy.
Coal isn’t alone in benefiting from China’s thirst for energy. The nation is also drawing in more cargoes of liquefied natural gas, diverting those ships away from Europe and raising prices for gas everywhere. This has driven the price of LNG in Singapore this summer past levels reached in the winter, where demand is strongest.
“Coal’s strength is driven by China,” stated Elchin Mammadov a utilities analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “We expected that China would intervene in the market and lower prices, but that hasn’t happened.”
The cost of fossil-fuel emissions also is rising. Carbon is now trading near its strongest in a decade at $23 a ton. Higher Carbon prices raise the cost of using fossil fuels, especially coal—which produces the most greenhouse gases.