In 2022, EU coal production and consumption continued to increase, reaching 349 million tonnes (+5 per cent compared with the previous year) and 454 million tonnes (+2 per cent), respectively, according to Eurostat. This rebound started in 2021 and was mainly driven by lignite, a solid fossil fuel with low energy content belonging to the bigger category of brown coal.
Despite the recent rebound, the production stayed below the pre-pandemic 2019 figures. Today, brown coal is produced by 9 EU members, with Germany taking the lead as the main producer. Last year, Germany (131 million tonnes) accounted for about 44 per cent of the total EU brown coal production. The other Member States producing brown coal are all from the Central and Eastern European region: Poland (19 per cent), Bulgaria (12 per cent), Czechia (11 per cent), Romania, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia.
Consumption figures for lignite and brown coal are very similar to production, as these coal types are usually not traded but are used domestically to produce electricity. While lignite is rarely the main fuel for electricity production in EU countries, it is in several Western Balkan countries. Nevertheless, in recent years, the share of lignite in electricity production decreased also in the Western Balkans with hydro and natural gas on the rise.
For hard coal, a category of coal with higher energy content, production in the EU reached almost 55 million tonnes in 2022. At present, there are only two producers of hard coal remaining in the EU: Poland and Czechia.
Consumption of hard coal in 2022 reached 160 million tonnes, 11 per cent less than in 2019. Unlike brown coal, hard coal is used in other industries besides power production and is therefore traded and consumed by all EU countries except Malta. Poland (38 per cent) and Germany (25 per cent) accounted for almost two-thirds of the total hard coal consumption of the EU in 2022, followed by Italy, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Czechia.