Still, renewable energy is projected to become the world's largest source of power generation by 2015 and "close in on coal as the primary source by 2035," the IEA report said.
In Southern West Virginia, projections for international coal demand are becoming increasingly important, as coal producers look overseas to make up for decreased demand fueled by cheap natural gas and a variety of other factors.
The IEA report notes that coal "has met nearly half of the rise in global energy demand over the last decade, growing faster even than total renewables.
"Whether coal demand carries on rising strongly or changes course will depend on the strength of policy measures that favor lower-emissions energy sources, the deployment of more efficient coal-burning technologies and, especially important in the longer term, [carbon capture and sequestration]," the IEA report said.
IEA said that policy decisions made in China and India, where coal demand growth is expected to keep rising, "carry the most weight" for the fuel's future.
China's coal demand is expected to peak around 2020, while coal use in India continues to rise until it overtakes the U.S. as the second-largest user of coal by 2025.
"The sensitivity of these trajectories to changes in policy, the development of alternative fuels ... as the timely availability of infrastructure, create much uncertainty for international steam coal markets and prices," the IEA said.
The report warned that two-thirds of the world's "carbon reserves" -- measured in potential carbon dioxide emissions -- are related to coal, 22 percent to oil and 15 percent to natural gas.
No more than one-third of the proven world reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to keep greenhouse-related global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, unless carbon capture and storage is widely deployed.
"These findings underline the importance of [carbon capture and storage] as a key option to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions, but its pace of deployment remains highly uncertain, with only a handful of commercial-scale projects currently in operation," the IEA report said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.