European Coal production and consumption decreased by a third in 2 years

The decreasing trend observed in coal statistics in the EU continued in 2020. It affected both hard coal and brown coal, and both the production and the consumption of each.

Following a consistent decline since 1990, the decrease of the consumption of both types of coal accelerated in 2019. Compared to 2018, hard coal consumption decreased by 35 % in 2020 and brown coal (mostly lignite) consumption by 33 %.

The 2020 monthly figures show that the COVID-19 pandemic had effects on coal production and consumption, but the full extent of the influence of the pandemic on coal production and consumption will be clearer in the following years.

Hard coal: from 13 to 2 producers, strong decrease in production and consumption

In 2020, the EU produced 56 million tonnes of hard coal, 80 % less than its production in 1990. The number of Member States producing hard coal has also decreased since then, from 13 in 1990 to only two Member States in 2020: Poland, accounting for 96 % of the total EU production, and Czechia.

Similarly, the consumption of hard coal has consistently decreased since 1990, with an accelerated decrease since 2019. In 2020, the EU consumption of hard coal is estimated at 144 million tonnes, 63 % less than in 1990.

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.

A series of pie charts showing the decreasing total amount of the hard coal production in the EU from 1990 to 2020 (from 277.4 million tonnes to 56.5 million tonnes), as well as the decreasing number of producing countries in the same period (from more than 6 producers to only 2 producing countries in 2020: Poland and Czechia)

Brown coal: the decline of lignite in the EU continues

Similarly to hard coal, the continuous decrease of brown coal consumption has accelerated from 2019 onwards. In 2020, the EU consumption of brown coal, mostly concerning lignite, is estimated at 246 million tonnes, or 64 % less than in 1990.

95 % of the total brown coal consumption in the EU is taken up by 6 countries: Germany (44%), Poland (19%), Czechia (12%), Bulgaria, Romania and Greece. The production and consumption figures for brown coal are very similar, as it is nearly always consumed in the production countries, while there is also very little trade in brown coal.

The vast majority of brown coal in the EU is used for electricity production. In 2019, 93 % of brown coal was used for this purpose. However, use of brown coal in power production decreased strongly in 2019, for the same reasons as for hard coal.

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