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Asian thermal coal imports are expected to grow by more than 270 million tonnes to 1.1 billion tonnes per annum by 2030, a new report has shown.

That hike represents considerably more than Australia’s entire 2019 thermal coal exports of 212 million tonnes.

Commodity Insights prepared the report, commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia, saying recent analysis suggested Australia’s thermal coal producers could benefit from strong future demand growth, especially within the region.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive officer Tania Constable said the figures highlighted the challenge to reduce emissions in the region to meet Paris Agreement goals, including through the use of technology such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS).

“Australian thermal coal is amongst the highest quality in the world, enabling more energy to be produced with less CO2 emitted per kWh of electricity produced than most alternative sources,” she said.

“It is critically important to achieve global net zero emissions, and there are clearly challenges ahead in the Asia-Pacific region in relation to emissions reduction, requiring consideration of low-emissions technologies such as CCUS, renewables, gas and nuclear power to meet Paris Agreement goals.

“Australia’s minerals industry has commenced implementation of the MCA Climate Action Plan, focused on driving low-emissions technology within operations and across mine sites, transparency and reporting and knowledge sharing.”

The Commodity Insights report said developing regions of Asia – China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh – all had low levels of per capita electricity consumption.

The most developed of these – China – has a consumption level half of Japan’s and a third of the USA’s.

India’s per capita consumption level is only one-tenth of Japan’s, and Bangladesh’s is less than one-twentieth of Japan’s.

Along with their substantial populations and strong forecast population growth, these relatively low consumption levels indicated significant future electricity demand growth across Asia, the report said.

It noted that government policy in relation to both energy sources and emissions reduction were important drivers of coal’s share of power generation and therefore import demand.

“In this context, these forecasts will continue to be subject to changes in government policy, including emissions reduction measures to meet Paris Agreement targets,” the report overview stated.

In 2019-20, Australia’s exports of thermal and metallurgical coal were worth $54.6 billion – which was 11.5 per cent of the nation’s total export revenue ($474.8 billion).

The MCA said an update of the medium-term outlook for metallurgical coal was expected in 2021.