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KUALA LUMPUR: Price volatility in the energy market is not an issue that merely impacts one country; it is a global issue.

The sector is now facing a crisis where demand for energy commodities has exceeded supply and caused a volatility in terms of pricing, with global spot prices for natural gas and coal reaching their highest levels this year.

On Sept 28, 2021, crude oil prices headed for a bull run by breaching the US$80 per barrel mark and continued to increase to reach a three-year high of US$83 per barrel on Oct 13, before declining to US$70 per barrel in December. (US$1=RM4.22)

An energy crisis in two of Asia’s key economies, China and India, caused power shortages and drove up the market price of coal as well. Coal price reached a historic high of up to US$270 per metric tonne in October 2021.

There were several contributing factors, but the primary causes were China’s rapid growth, insatiable demand for energy and shortage of coal supply. The world’s second-largest economy’s appetite for energy is always a key driver of global market prices. Its post-COVID economic ramp-up has coincided with an uptick in demand across Asia and Europe too.

As economies begin to recover, countries which experience a long cold winter that depleted gas storage levels, have been left scrabbling to secure more supplies, compounding the impact on fuel and electricity around the world.

According to a Bloomberg news report, some utilities in China have not completed winter restocking and insist there is only limited supply available. Meanwhile, several industrial sectors that are large energy users continue to have their power supply curtailed or they would face significantly higher electricity costs.


China, the world’s top coal consumer, said it will expand coal procurement at any price to ensure heating and power generation in winter. Consequently, this move threatens to leave less fuel for energy-starved rivals.

Traditionally, China bought nearly all of its coal supplies from producers within Asia, but due to political dispute, the country is boosting coal imports from some of South Asia and Europe’s mainstay suppliers.

At the same time, Europe has been trying to snag shipments away from Asia, while importers in Eastern Europe have been buying supplies from Australia, and this considered as rare move that shows how desperate these countries are for coal.

Bloomberg said global coal supplies have fallen and there are shortages of coal in some markets as major coal producers, Colombia and Indonesia, have struggled with heavy rain, while mines elsewhere were closed due to the pandemic.

However, the intervention from China’s authorities to both raise domestic coal production and cap the domestic price has put a downward pressure on coal prices.



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