The coal industry was not quick enough to explain the potential of clean technologies that can give the fossil fuel a place in a sustainable energy matrix, Michelle Manook, chief executive of the World Coal Association (WCA), told Reuters.
Coal is considered a heavy polluter and environmentalists warn using it is an obstacle to curbing climate change. Several large mining companies and investment funds have moved to sell off coal assets.
Coal’s poor image is partly due to the sector not doing enough to show that cleaner coal technologies can have a positive impact on emissions, Manook told Reuters during an interview at the Colombian Mining Association’s (ACM) offices in Bogota.
“We haven’t done a good enough job,” she said, explaining that both producers and consumers have not sufficiently communicated what technologies exist and are available to qualify coal as an energy option for the future.Technologies available to help reduce emissions include carbon capture and storage (CCS) and high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) power plants, Manook said.
Coal-fired power plants using HELE and CCS technology can cut emissions by as much as 90%, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
While some experts say CCS technology is essential to meeting the goal of a net carbon zero economy by 2050, environmentalists view it as a means for industry to keep using fossil fuels.“The biggest issue for the coal market is how we actually reintegrate ourselves back into this energy debate,” Manook added.
For WCA members the future of energy is not about choosing between coal and renewable sources, but rather using them side by side, she said.
“Our members are very much about the complementary nature of coal and renewables,” Manook said. “Coal is really important to many developing and emerging nations and we want to support using coal and being part of a decarbonized future.”