A new report issued by the International Energy Agency, Southeast Asia Energy Outlook, predicts that Southeast Asia’s demand for energy will spike more than 80 percent by 2035, with coal as the “fuel of choice” for the region’s exploding power sector. According to the report, electricity generation between 2011 and 2035 will increase by more than the current power output of India. Coal’s relative abundance and affordability in the region boosts its share of electricity generation from less than one-third today to almost one-half in 2035, mainly at the expense of natural gas and oil. This shift is already underway, with about three-quarters of the thermal capacity now under construction being coal-fired. The report notes that the average efficiency of the current fleet of coal plants is only 34%, and thus deploying more efficient coal-fired plants should be a major priority in the region. Most of the plants currently under construction, however, are not taking advantage of the latest technology; 70 percent of the coal-fired plants under construction in the region were subcritical designs, the least efficient.
As the Appalachian region struggles with declining coal production, the impact of coal plant closings, and the anticipated impact of EPA regulation of greenhouse gases from new and existing coal plants, it is worth noting that the global trend will be far different. Developing nations are quickly ramping up their electricity generation, and coal remains the “fuel of choice” for baseload generation.