FRANKFURT, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Germany imported 54 million tonnes of hard coal in 2015, 4 percent less than in the previous year, coal importers’ lobby VDKI said on Thursday.
The figure was close to earlier forecasts from VDKI, which has cited weaker demand from power generators and the steel industry as reasons for the decline.
Some 41 million tonnes of the import total were steam coal for power stations, 11 million were coking coal mostly for steelmaking, and 2 million coke, a related product, the lobby group said.
While losing some market share in 2015, coal-to-power generation is still the backbone of German electricity supply in a country set on moving away from nuclear power and favouring renewable energy over fossil fuels.
Coal accounted for 42.2 percent of the power generation total last year, data from industry group BDEW showed.
This was made up of 24 percent derived from domestic brown coal and 18.2 percent from hard coal. In 2014, both types of coal had been used in 43.7 percent of power output.
Germany covered 89 percent of its total hard coal requirements with imports, while 11 percent come from domestic production, which is falling sharply ahead of a complete phase-out of all mines in 2018.
VDKI went on to say that European Union coal imports would remain limited this year amid a worldwide decline in coal production, trade volumes and prices.
Britain in 2015 saw a 37 percent year-on-year fall in imports while Italy’s were broadly stable and those in Spain 2 million tonnes up at 18 million tonnes, it said.
“Rising power generation from renewable energy and the fact that the economy will not grow in a sustainable way will likely keep a lid on steam coal imports into the EU in 2016,” VDKI said. (Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Adrian Croft)