Best practices in production of electricity from coal – UNECE/EPRI, October 2015

Last week I participated in the UNECE/EPRI workshop on best practices in production of electricity from coals, held at the UN offices in Geneva. This focused on:

• the role of coal in energy systems

• new build thermal plant options

• retrofit options and limitations

• enabling CO2 mitigation options with thermal efficiency and flexibility

This was more than just an interesting technical discussion, the programme for which can be found at ( Rather, it also sought to identify how coal can best be used in a sustainable manner, recognising there is no one answer-fits-all solution and that the means to limit carbon emissions will vary from region to region and with the development status of each country involved. The UNECE (UN Economic Commission for Europe) covers a region from Africa through to Asia, with 56 members’ states that account for 50% of global energy consumption and close to 50% energy production, with coal featuring strongly for many countries.  The meeting also reflected a continuing frustration that climate change agendas do not properly take account of energy use. As the IEA has stated many times, their 2 degree scenario still includes 44% of fossil fuel use in the energy mix out to 2050. Consequently, fossil energy really matters and you cannot ignore it. Certainly you cannot make a rational case for a climate change agreement without taking it into account. Any development agenda has to include energy provision to allow sustainable development.  

In that regard, it was noted that while COP21 aims to achieve some form of agreement on climate change, there is no overt discussion regarding the role of fossil fuels!