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2019 Is Tracking Toward the Largest Drop in Global Coal Power Use

Source: Data sourced from Carbon Brief, projection based on analysis of national electricity data

2019 is likely to see the largest drop globally in electricity produced by coal, as this year’s trends suggest a reduction of 300 terawatt-hours by the end of the year, according to an analysis from Carbon Brief. Declines in coal generation in some countries in 2017 and 2018 were counterpoised by increases in others, the report says, but in 2019, “coal generation in India and China is slowing sharply, precipitating a global reduction.”

This record drop is also due to declining use of coal “in developed countries, including Germany, the EU overall and South Korea,” the report says, with “the largest reduction … taking place in the U.S.” The U.K. also set a record this year when its power plants went more than five days without burning any coal, partly due to wind power energy, which has more than doubled in use over the last two years. 

Businesses are expected to turn to solar power to “exploit falling costs [of solar] to help cut their energy bills,” the International Energy Agency’s executive director, Fatih Birol, said in the Guardian, but he added that its “rapid rollout could disrupt electricity markets unless regulators and utilities adapt.”

Employees Don’t Want to Be in the Office on Friday

Fridays are the emptiest days in the office in the United States as the majority of hybrid workers choose to work from home on the last day of the week, new data shows. Security service provider Kastle Systems found that only 30% of U.S. workers swipe into the office on Fridays. In comparison, 50% of workers came into work on Tuesday, the highest turnout of the week.

Employers worldwide are experimenting with flexible work arrangements as the pandemic continues and workers make clear their preference for working from home. A U.K. survey shows that 80% of workers say that working from home at least once a week has a positive impact on their lives. Seventy-five percent say that they believe the world is never going back to a traditional five-day work week.

Some companies are experimenting with giving employees Fridays off. In the U.K., more than 70 companies are part of the largest trial of a four-day work week ever. In the U.S., tech companies like Kickstarter, Thred Up, and Bolt are moving to a Monday to Thursday work week for good.

China’s Economic Recovery Wobbles in July

China’s manufacturing fell in July after bouncing back in June, as the country’s economic recovery remains fragile. China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell from 50.2 to 49, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Non-manufacturing PMI, including the construction and service sectors, also slowed to 53.8 from 54.7.

The contraction follows weak demand and continued COVID-19 outbreaks, which are controlled under China’s restrictive “zero-COVID” policy. COVID-19 cases have locked down the city of Xi’an and closed some buildings in the country’s tech hub Shenzhen and the port city of Tianjin, home to major factories.

China’s economy shrank in the second quarter of this year, contracting by 2.6% between April and June following widespread lockdowns earlier in the year. Supply chain disruptions and high commodity prices from the crisis in Ukraine have also contributed to the economic slowdown. China is preparing to miss its previously-stated GDP goal of 5.5%, Chinese state media reported after a meeting of the Communist Party last week.

China and India Account for 70% of Global Coal Demand

Nearly 200 countries pledged to reduce their coal use at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, but some regions will face greater challenges transitioning from the carbon-intensive fossil fuel to greener energy sources, reports the Financial Times

The Asia-Pacific region depends on coal for almost half of its energy needs, with China and India alone accounting for 70% of global coal demand. As China and India’s economies expand, their power demands will rise — demands not yet being met by renewable energy sources in the region. 

In the U.S., use of coal as an energy source is forecast by the S&P Global Commodity Insights to fall to 12% by 2030. In Europe, the S&P predicts that climate mitigation policies will lead to less than 5% coal use by 2030 (though this may be delayed by Russian gas interruptions leading to greater dependence on coal plants). China’s use of coal is forecast to fall to 51% of power generation by 2030, while it simultaneously drives solar and wind power technology. In India, coal demand is expected to significantly increase by the end of the decade, with no present policies penalizing coal use.

U.S. Fed Hikes Interest Rates By 0.75%

Source: Reuters

The U.S. Federal Reserve has increased interest rates by 0.75% points for the second consecutive time in an effort to check inflation from its four-decade high. The hike raises the Fed’s policy rate to a range of 2.25 to 2.5% from near-zero in March — one of the fastest monetary policy changes in U.S. history. Stocks and bonds rallied after the Fed announced its rate hike on Wednesday.

Inflation is rising around the world, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic raise the prices of food and energy. In the U.S., inflation hit an annual rate of more than 9% in June. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that economic growth has slowed as high prices cut into consumer discretionary spending.

The rate hikes come as some experts predict a potential recession. But the Fed doesn’t see an economic downturn on the horizon, in part because employers added 2.7 million jobs in the first half of this year. “I do not think that the U.S. is currently in a recession,” said Powell, adding that too many areas of the economy are doing well.

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