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Coal production and consumption fell in 2016 while renewables saw growth, analysis from BP shows

Kevin Frayer | Getty Images

Worldwide coal consumption fell by 1.7 percent last year while production dropped by 6.2 percent, or 231 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe), according to the 2017 edition of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

The production figure represents the largest decline on record and was driven by China and the U.S., which recorded drops of 7.9 percent and 19 percent respectively.

In terms of consumption, the U.S. saw an 8.8 percent drop – equivalent to 33 mtoe – while China recorded a 1.6 percent drop.

In the U.K., coal consumption fell by 52.5 percent, with BP stating that consumption there has now dropped to "levels last seen at the start of the Industrial Revolution around 200 years ago."

"The fortunes of coal appear to have taken a decisive break from the past," Spencer Dale, group chief economist at BP, said in his analysis of the figures.

"This shift largely reflects structural factors: the increasing availability and competitiveness of natural gas and renewables, combined with government and societal pressure to shift towards cleaner, lower carbon fuels."

By contrast renewable power – excluding hydro – grew by 14.1 percent last year, with wind and solar making significant contributions.

In perhaps a sign of things to come, China overtook the U.S. as the largest single producer of renewables, while Europe and Eurasia were overtaken by Asia Pacific as the world's largest renewable power producing region.

While renewable power still represented only 3.2 percent of the share in primary energy, Dale noted that its growth meant it "accounted for over 30 percent of the increase in primary energy."