Iceland burns over 160,000 tonnes of coal yearly, and this will increase to well over 200,000 tonnes of coal over the next three years, due almost entirely to the development of heavy industry in the country.
A common conception of Iceland is that it’s a “green” country that runs entirely on renewable energy. While it is true that Icelandic homes are heated and powered almost entirely by geothermal and hydropower, RÚV reports that Iceland is currently burning more coal than it has in decades.
This coal is not being used to heat homes, however; it is used in heavy industry, as a part of the manufacturing process. These include the ferroalloy plant in Grundartangi, the cement factory in Akranes (which is now closed), and the United Silicon plant in Helgavík.
According to data from the National Energy Authority (NEA), 139,000 tonnes of coal were burned in Iceland in 2015. It is estimated that 161,000 tonnes were burned in 2016, and the NEA predicts 2017 will see 181,000 tonnes burned; in 2018, 224,000 tonnes. In all, this will be an increase of about 60% over just three years.
For a sense of perspective, 2.03 tonnes of coal are burned per every person in China, while 1.63 tonnes of coal per capita are burned in the US. Iceland currently burns 0.42 tonnes of coal per each Icelander, and this will increase to 0.66 tonnes per capita in 2018.