Discussion of coal as a solution to global energy poverty will be on the agenda at the upcoming G20 summit but – when spending their own money – even coal companies don’t use coal to alleviate energy poverty, according to a new report from The Australia Institute.

“When supporting electricity projects in developing countries, we couldn’t find a single example of coal companies using coal to alleviate poverty,” said Rod Campbell, an economist at The Australia Institute and lead author of the report.

Energy poverty – the lack of access to electricity and clean cooking facilities – affects an estimated 2.6 billion people worldwide. It’s something the United Nations, World Bank and development agencies are working to improve with renewable energy and off-grid solutions.

Coal companies have also been very vocal in highlighting energy poverty – and promoting coal as the solution. The loudest industry voice is Peabody Energy, whose CEO has described as “the world’s number one human and environmental crisis.”

Peabody will host an event at the G20 summit next week talking about the importance of coal for meeting the world’s unmet energy needs. Yet despite its concern, the company does not support any direct poverty alleviation projects, according to new report All talk, no action: the coal industry and energy poverty.

The report lists examples of coal companies helping to provide renewable energy and a range of off-grid technologies in developing nations – like Adani and BHP Billiton providing solar technology in India and Pakistan, and Rio Tinto connecting villages in Peru to hydo and gas- fired electricity grids.

“The reason not even coal-producing companies use coal is that it’s not economically rational to do so. It takes years and costs $2 billion to build a coal-fired power plant, so if you want to address energy poverty now, you don’t use coal,” Mr Campbell said.

The report finds that the industry’s claims that coal is vital to economic growth, quality of life and environmental improvement are unsubstantiated, and designed to influence public policy and opinion.

While Peabody and its peer companies love to talk about energy poverty, they do very little to actually address it. And when they do – not even coal companies use coal.

The report is available online: www.tai.org.au