All Talk, No Action: The Coal Industry and Energy Poverty

Published by The Australia Institute, November 2014

Energy poverty – the lack of access to electricity and clean cooking facilities – affects an estimated 2.6 billion people worldwide. It’s something the United Nations, World Bank and development agencies are working to improve with renewable energy and off-grid solutions.

Coal companies have also been very vocal in highlighting energy poverty – and promoting coal as the solution. The loudest industry voice is Peabody Energy, whose CEO has described as “the world’s number one human and environmental crisis.” Yet despite its concern, the company does not support any direct poverty alleviation projects, according to  All talk, no action: the coal industry and energy poverty.

The report lists examples of coal companies helping to provide renewable energy and a range of off-grid technologies in developing nations – like Adani and BHP Billiton providing solar technology in India and Pakistan, and Rio Tinto connecting villages in Peru to hydo and gas- fired electricity grids.

“The reason not even coal-producing companies use coal is that it’s not economically rational to do so. It takes years and costs $2 billion to build a coal-fired power plant, so if you want to address energy poverty now, you don’t use coal,” Rod Campbell, the report’s author, said.

The report finds that the industry’s claims that coal is vital to economic growth, quality of life and environmental improvement are unsubstantiated, and designed to influence public policy and opinion.

While Peabody and its peer companies love to talk about energy poverty, they do very little to actually address it. And when they do – not even coal companies use coal.

Energy poverty Illustration 03