In 2020, the European Union consumed 63% and 64% less hard coal and brown coal, respectively, than in 1990, according to data from Eurostat. The reason is the shift toward natural gas, and renewables.
The decreasing trend observed in coal statistics in the EU continued in 2020, both in the production and consumption of hard coal and brown coal.
Following a consistent decline since 1990, the drop in consumption accelerated in 2019. Compared to 2018, hard coal consumption decreased by 35% in 2020 compared to 33% for brown coal (mostly lignite).
Of course, last year’s impact of the COVID-19 pandemic must be taken into account.
EU importing hard coal
In 2020, the EU produced 56 million tonnes of hard coal, but consumed 144 million tonnes, which implies it imported the fossil fuel.
Production and consumption were 80% and 63% lower, respectively, than in 1990.
The number of member states producing hard coal declined from 13 in 1990 to only two last year: Poland, accounting for 96% of total EU output, and Czechia.
The reasons for lower consumption of hard coal are the energy shift towards natural gas and renewables for electricity production, as well as a decrease in the production of coke oven coke, used in various industries such as for the production of iron and steel, Eurostat said.
Brown coal: production, consumption concentrated in six countries
The production and consumption of brown coal are more balanced, but also decreasing.
The estimated EU consumption last year, mostly lignite, is 246 million tonnes, or 64% less than in 1990.
The production and consumption figures for brown coal are very similar, as the material is nearly always burned where it is extracted, while there is also very little trade.
Six countries account for 95% of total brown coal consumption in the EU. Germany alone has a 44% share. Next is Poland with 19%, followed by Czechia (12%). The remaining three countries are Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.
Brown coal is predominately used for electricity production. However, the quantities decreased strongly, Eurostat noted.