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EghtesadOnline: To diversify its sources of electricity, the Energy Ministry is making concerted efforts to complete the construction of the first coal-fired power plant near the city of Tabas in South Khorasan Province.

Mohsen Tarztalab, the head of Iran's Thermal Power Plants Holding Company that is a subsidiary of the Energy Ministry, made the statement while vising the site of the project on Friday, the Energy Ministry’s news service reported.

“The power station will produce 650 megawatts and feed on the nearby Mazino coalmine, which holds more than 600 million tons of in-place coal,” he said.

“If the same amount of electricity [650 MW] was supposed to be generated with the help of natural gas, the plant would burn 1.2 billion cubic meters of fuel annually.”

Building the coal plant makes economic sense under the sanctions regime because not only is it cheaper than the gas-powered thermal power stations but also allows Iran to diversify its sources of power, which now largely comes from thermal stations using gas.

According to the official, the project has registered 75% progress and the turbines are being installed.

Supplying equipment for the new power plant is the responsibility of Iran’s MAPNA Group and China’s Shanghai Electric.

Nevertheless, conservationists have voiced strong opposition to the scheme, saying that burning coal will add to the deteriorating pollution and global warming.

Mazino Coal Mine in Tabas was launched six months ago to provide feedstock for Tabas Power Plant that is supposed to be synchronized with the national grid in 2023. 

Two million tons of coal per year will be extracted from Mazino, an open-pit mine, to be fed into Tabas coal-fired power plant, he added.

Open-pit mining, also known as mega-mining, open-cast or open-cut mining, is a surface mining technique of extracting rock or minerals from an open-air pit, sometimes known as a borrow.

This form of mining differs from extractive methods that require tunneling. Open-pit mines are used when deposits of commercially useful ore or rocks are found near the surface.

“When the power plant comes on stream, it will create 1,500 direct and 6,000 indirect jobs, which will help reduce unemployment in South Khorasan and east of the country.”



Global Demand

According to the International Energy Agency, global coal demand declined by 4% in 2020, the biggest drop since World War II. The main driver of the decline was lower electricity demand owing to Covid19 restrictions and the resulting economic downturn.

Preferential dispatch or use of renewables in many markets squeezed gas and coal in the electricity mix. Lower gas prices saw significant fuel switching away from coal, particularly in the United States and the European Union, where coal use for power fell by 20% and 21%, respectively. 

Overall, a decline in the power sector accounted for over 40% of lower global demand in 2020.

The Covid19 pandemic also affected industrial output, notably steel and cement, further lowering coal demand.

China was the only country to see a significant jump in coal production last year. It generated over 53% of the world's total coal-fired power in 2020, according to data published by the energy and climate research group Ember.

New coal-fired power installations reached 38.4 gigawatts in 2020. That's more than three times the amount built by the rest of the world.

Earlier this year, China boldly promised to reduce its coal dependence and emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gas. The country is aiming to become "carbon neutral" by 2060.


Khorasan Coal-Fired Power Station