The advantages of coal

Coal is characterised by:

  • Security of supply and price predictability;
  • Wide and long-lasting reserves;
  • Cost-effectiveness;
  • Labour intensiveness;
  • Safety in transportation, storage and handling;
  • Environmental friendly.

Gas reserves are located in a few countries, instable on the political level, such as Algeria and Russia. World reserves of coal are geographically distributed in more than 100 countries and its reserves are placed in very different areas also from the point of view of national political stability.

La sicurezza dell'approvvigionamento: le riserve mondiali (fonte:BP Amoco Statistical Review)

Several studies show that security of supply from coal reserves is 2 times better than from natural gas and 3.5 times better than from oil. Coal can guarantee supply for about 160 years. Coal’s high competitiveness in energy mix is not only due to its elevated distribution in the world but also to its very competitive production costs.

It’s been verified that the nuclear/coal generation cost is 20% lower than the combined cycle gas one. According to the latest survey from the Regulatory Authority for Electricity and Gas, the costs for electric energy production are:

  • 2,18 Eurocents/Kwh from coal;
  • 5,51 Eurocents/Kwh from oil;
  • 6,34 Eurocents/Kwh from natural gas

Composizione percentuale della tariffa elettrica per un consumatore tipo (fonte: elaborazione su dati AEEG)

This competitiveness is also due to coal fixed cost, that is about 22% lower than other sources of generation. More than 62% of the Italian energy bill may be ascribed to supply costs.

According to the Italian Authority, if Italian electric plants used as much coal as the rest of Europe, fuels cost on the entire amount of Kwh would decrease by 10%. Moreover if every Italian plants used coal, the Kwh would fall by 20%.

Though electric energy production from coal is the most competitive in Italy today, it is “labour intensive” with a work force ration of 3:1 when comparing a coal based power station with a combined cycle natural gas power station.

Kind of plant Power Personal consistency
Coal 4 sections of 300MW 487 assigned; 0,37 assigned for MW
Oil 4 sections of 320MW 311 assigned; 0,24 assigned for MW
Natural gas CC 2 sections of 345MW 100 assigned; 0,14 assigned for MW

Moreover the Industrial Department of University of Brescia has carried on an Investigation about work risks in a coal plant, monitoring the environment every year since 1987. The analysis of the results of 15 years of activity has confirmed the absence of pathologies or diseases in workers of the coal plant.

In 2008 Nomisma Energia issued a report entitled “Coal plants and Agriculture”, that underlined that coal plants have no impact on the pollution concentration level in the surrounding grounds.

As far as transport and use are concerned, coal guarantees high level of security thanks to the fact that it is nor inflammable, nor explosive, nor pollutant for the ground and the water.

In 1997 the International Maritime Organization (I.M.O.) approved the exclusion of coal, as opposed to oil and natural gas, from the list of substances at risk and potentially harmful when transported by sea. If a ship full of coal capsizes, then the coal would deposit itself on the bottom of the sea without causing any damage.

As for the storage and handling of coal on land, there exist adequate techniques and equipment for covering and protecting both conveyor belts and storage facilities. These techniques are used in Italy and they reduce the spreading of dust, even in conditions of significant atmospheric turbulence.