Improving access to energy

Energy is fundamental to development. Without reliable modern energy services hospitals and schools cannot function and business and industry cannot grow to provide employment and economic growth.

Coal has a fundamental role in providing access to base load electricity and is a critical building block for development – metallurgical coal is an essential ingredient in steel and much of the world’s cement is produced using coal, both vital materials in building sustainable societies.


  • Access to energy
  • Grid flexibility
  • Low emission technologies
  • Sustainable development news

Access to energy

860 million people across the globe currently living without access to electricity. Nearly 2.6 billion people do not have clean cooking facilities. The problem is spread across the developing world, but it is particularly severe in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, which together account for 95% of people in energy poverty. Without a commitment to achieve universal energy access it has been estimated that by 2030, there will be an additional 1.5 million premature deaths per year caused by household pollution from burning wood and dung and through a lack of basic sanitation and healthcare.

Access to energy in China

Coal plays a critical role in bringing affordable, reliable electricity to hundreds of millions of people in developing and emerging economies, particularly across Asia. 

The World Bank estimates that in the last three decades 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty – almost all of those in China. Remove China from the mix and poverty levels in the rest of the world have barely improved. The link between access to affordable power from coal, economic growth and prosperity is clear. In China close to 99 percent of the population is connected to the grid.

Grid flexibility

When it comes to providing stable baseload power supply or integrating intermittent power sources, coal is a key resource for the fast track to sustainable grids.

While innovation continues to shift the energy landscape, the intermittency of power supply from renewable sources – the fact that there are times when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine – means that grids still need baseload power, which is often provided by coal. In India for example: energy from renewable sources, primarily solar, grew by 27% from 2017 to 2018, covering around 30% of the total increase in the country’s power demand.

However, India’s economy is predicted to continue to grow at an annual average rate of 6.5% through to 2040 and as a result, energy demand is projected to triple over that period. 180 million Indians are also expected to gain electricity access by 2040. Renewables alone cannot meet these needs. This is why 40 GW of coal-fired capacity is currently under construction. Further capacity additions are planned to meet increasing demand, including peak loads, and to ensure reliability with more dispatchable capacity.

Coal-fired power plants will form part of the flexibility picture in India, responding to system needs and complementing renewables; and technologies exist to make them environmentally compatible.

Low emission technologies

Low emission coal technologies are important in enabling very real energy needs worldwide to be met, while also reducing CO2 emissions and meeting climate ambitions.

Deploying high efficiency, low emission (HELE) coal-fired power plants is a key first step along a pathway to near-zero emissions from coal with carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS). In addition to significant benefits from reduced CO2 emissions, these modern high efficiency plants  have significantly reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SOx) and particulate matter (PM). Beyond the climate benefits of reduced CO2 emissions, reduction in these pollutants is of additional importance at the local and regional level to address air quality and related health concerns