Clean Power

Published on April 21st, 2014 | by Dr. Karl-Friedrich Lenz


China’s Coal Boom Coming To An End

April 21st, 2014 by  

Originally published on Lenz Blog.

Greenpeace has published a short report on recent trends in Chinese coal consumption, titled “The End of China’s Coal Boom.” Thanks to this Tweet by Kees van der Leun for the link.

The report shows plans of multiple provinces in China to either reduce or massively reduce the use of coal. Beijing stands out with a reduction of 50% over the next couple of years. This is partly motivated by the fact that coal is not only bad news for the climate. It also means massive air pollution.

Collectively, these measures would lead to 1.3 Gt less CO2 emissions in 2020. In comparison, the EU target for 2020 is only 0.451 Gt. Clearly, these measures will have a massive impact.

Such a reduction in coal consumption will need other energy sources. That of course means rapid growth of renewable. As pointed out in the Greenpeace report, solar has gone to over 20 Gw installed capacity in 2013, up from only 8 Gw in 2012 and less than 1 Gw in 2010. That’s exponential growth. Wind is at around 89 Gw in 2013, up from 44 Gw in 2010 and less than 6 Gw in 2007. Again, that’s exponential growth.

This is of course also very good news for any project of generating renewable energy in the Mongolian Gobi desert. The big market in China with a need to replace massive coal use is just next door.

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About the Author

is a professor of German and European Law at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, blogging since 2003 at Lenz Blog. A free PDF file of his global warming science fiction novel "Great News" is available here.

  • NorskeDiv

    Wow, Greenpeace really dropped the ball on this one. China is planning on reducing the emissions in some provinces, mainly for political reasons. Instead the coal will be turned into gas and then transported to its final use point. This actually results in an increase in energy usage!

    On top of that, even if Greenpeace’s very rosy prediction comes true, it still means that China is increasing it’s coal use. Congratulating China on stepping back from this goal of massively increased coal usage to merely a large increase is a strange move on the part of Greenpeace. This would be akin to Bush announcing the US will triple coal consumption by 2020, and then Obama announcing a plan to only increase it a further ten percent then Greenpeace congratulating him as a environmental visionary.

    “The country needs to be more proactive in communicating its domestic progress.”

    What a noble bit of advice from Greenpeace, a country which is year over year increasing its CO2 per Capita needs to be more proactive about communicating its domestic progress. Yes, because that’s what the environmental movement really needs, China as the poster boy for addressing climate change.

    It is quite interesting that page 10 indicates that the rate of wind power additions has slowed. The actual MW nameplate capacity added in 2012 was the same as 2011 (growth is non-exponential). At this rate wind KWH will be surpassed by Chinese nuclear in 2014 and likely never catch up.

  • spec9

    It is sad that it took record pollution levels and increased sickness & death to get China to finally cut back on coal. But I guess we should all welcome the good news.

    • No way

      Yet they have a lower percentage of coal in their electricity mix than a lot of fully developed countries that should know better. There are far more sad cases in the western world.

      • Banned by Bob

        What countries get more than 65% of their power from coal?

        • A Real Libertarian

          Don’t tell me, you forgot Poland?

          • Banned by Bob

            “…far more sad cases in the Western world”

            Is Poland all there is? The same Poland with a GDP equivalent to the state of Virginia?

            Pretty powerful argument.

          • A Real Libertarian

            You: “What countries get more than 65% of their power from coal?”

            You Forgot Poland!

          • Banned by Bob

            Silly me. I guess I stopped looking when the list got to Turkey and Iran.


        • No way

          I actually meant that Chinas percentage of fossil fuels is lower than other contries levels of fossil fuels.
          Even when you just look at coal then Poland and Australia (and places like South Africa and Kazakhstan) are higher and players like Czech republic, Greece, Israel, USA and Germany are not that far ahead.

          But it’s when you look at percentage of fossil fuels it get really scary. Then there are 13 countries worse than China in just the EU-28. Add the US (and India) to the mix and it gets pitch black, not always as fully dark as coal is though.

        • Moohamed

          Alberta? not just coal but bitumen too.

          FYI Yes the oil field look like a post nuclear weapons Apocalypse and it stinks. glad I’m not near it any more!.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Old enough to remember how bad it got in many of our US cities before we decided it was time to clean things up?

      How about The Great Smog of London in 1952 that killed over 4,000 people over four days? Or the lessor London smog of 1962 that killed about 750?

      • No way

        People have short memories… especially when it’s starting to get better. I hope we all get many stories like that to tell our grand kids of how bad it was 2014 and how great it became when we cleaned it up.

  • JamesWimberley

    For Greenpeace, the tone is very polite, almost deferential. They even put a photo of men in military or quasi-military uniforms on the cover! They won’t be doing their classic rabble-rousing stunts in China any time soon.
    I’m puzzled by the very decentralised approach China is taking to coal reductions. It’s as if provincial party chiefs picked their own targets. One way this could have happened is that the party chiefs are very divided. The leadership chose not to override the holdouts from inland provinces at this time, but to outflank them; they will come under both popular and élite pressure to join the movement. China’s state-controlled media will be drawing the contrast.

    • Bob_Wallace

      China has also allowed a number of different carbon pricing programs to be put in place. Using different regions as laboratories for figuring out the best approach.

  • Will E

    Chinese are smart.
    China get the lead in Cheap and Clean Solar and Wind Energy.
    Next to Cheap Labor comes now Cheap Energy in China.
    That makes China the WINNER.
    That makes USA and EU the LOOSER.
    USA and EU will become Third World Nations.

    • driveby

      3rd? Na.. thats a bit exaggerated. It will lead to China becoming one of the bigger players sooner though.

      • No way

        One of the bigger players? In what way? I mean, in many ways they are leading compared to the bigger players.

        • Moohamed

          China owns the manufacturing market, they are a super power in their own right, Canada and the uS will need to get their rears in gear and get to making stuff in hous when china decides to actualy make their currency unpeged.

          I hope the quality of life goes up for the average chineese farmer.

          Canada & The US will not become third world at all, rather prices will go up by a few dollars.

    • Banned by Bob

      The Western world had to make all of the investments and associated mistakes in developing the advanced technologies that China was simply able to acquire.

      Now the tables are turned as the Chinese have much higher energy costs to overcome than we do. We can let them burn through their capital in order to build solar panels that can compete here. Once they do, then we can buy those and avoid going through the obsolescence cycles on lower quality gear.

  • JamesWimberley

    Most growth is exponential: a similar proportional increase, year after year. 1.8% per annum (Piketty’s number for long-term growth in income per head in developed economies) is exponential. The point about China’s – and the world’s – growth in wind and solar is that it’s very fast exponential growth.

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