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Investment in coal-fired power plants: new lifeline for energy workers

Date: 29 October 2015

The oil industry is in turmoil at the moment, with prices per barrel dropping and job security within the sector becoming increasingly unstable. As a result of this, the coal industry is one area of traditional energy generation experiencing a boom in terms of potential candidates entering the field.

"The coal industry is one area of traditional
energy generation experiencing a boom"

This surge of candidates entering the coal sector is the result of lay-offs within the oil industry, but also a number of professionals seeking to enter a traditional energy sector with more opportunities for development.

These opportunities range from new investments being made in coal power plants in emerging markets, and the development of existing coal projects into more eco-friendly endeavours in already matured regions.

It has recently been reported that new coal-fired power plants are under construction in both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In the Patuakhali region of Bangladesh, the maritime port of Payra will benefit from electricity generated by a 1,320MW coal-based power plant as early as 2019. The plant is to be built on the bank of the Rabnabad River with an estimated cost of $2 billion. Similarly the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has announced that the government plans to go ahead with a joint-venture second coal-fired power plant in the Sampur, Trincomalee area of the country.

"New projects mark the beginning of a positive period
for coal-dependent power in emerging markets"

It is noted that these projects mark the beginning of a positive period for coal-dependent power, with the Sri Lankan government hoping to set up a number of coal-fired power projects within the next few years, hoping to generate 20,000MW of electricity from the source by the year 2030.

In Africa coal is also gaining traction, with Zimbabwe benefitting from a coal-fired project in the near future. Sable Mining Africa is looking to develop a 600MW coal-fired power station to help the country overcome its current power deficit. The project is being supported by the Ministry of Energy and Power Development.

The coal industry is also evolving within more developed markets. China, for example, is looking to implement clean-coal technology to help minimise the effect of high emissions created by this energy source. The United States Department of Energy and the National Energy Administration of China are aiming to sign a clean coal agreement; and with China using over four billion tonnes of coal every year, this development foreshadows a potentially significant shift to come about within the coal industry.

"Coal-fired power plants are under construction internationally including in
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, China & Australia"

These new eco-focused systems are also having a knock-on effect in Australia. As China seeks to invest in new generation coal-fired power plants, Australia’s coal export industry is due to flourish. Brendan Pearson, the Chief Executive for the Minerals Council of Australia said: “There is a huge misconception that lower emissions and coal use are incompatible. That is dead wrong” before noting that the Australian coal industry has an advantage in this new, eco-minded market, thanks to its high energy content and low impurities.

India is another nation to take eco-friendliness into account, with the news that the Central Electricity Authority has identified 57 coal-based power units in the country as viable for upgrades to become more efficient and less environmentally damaging. These units have a combined power outage of 32,000MW and will help to country to achieve its target of reducing emissions by 33-35% by the year 2030.

These projects represent not only a positive future for the energy production initiatives of the countries involved, but also for the coal industry as a whole. However, there is an unavoidable skills gap emerging between the existing coal-based workforce and those looking to enter the industry.

"Unavoidable skills gap emerging between existing
coal-based workforce and those looking to enter the industry"

While the coal industry was booming three or four decades ago, oil quickly became the energy product of choice and investment in coal-fired power plants slowed. As a result professionals with experience in coal-based projects lack the technical expertise to meet modern day requirements, and are now labelled as an aging workforce. Younger workers looking to start their career in the coal industry, on the other hand, lack experience.

"Vast opportunities for candidates willing to learn and
convert their skills within the coal field"

However the opportunities for candidates willing to learn and convert their skills are vast, and they will surely benefit from the re-emergence of this industry in newly emerging and exciting regions.

For more information on the re-emergence of the coal market and opportunities in the sector, contact Laking Group for expert insider knowledge.

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