New figures published by China’s National Burea of Statistics show that while the country’s total energy consumption increased by 1.4% in 2016, the country’s coal consumption declined by 4.7%.
Following China’s use of coal and the country’s corresponding carbon dioxide emission levels has been a pet project for me over the last few years, in the face of growing apathy in western countries for environmental and climate issues. Over the last few years, China has made more significant and large-scale proposals, policy moves, and actions than many of the so-called western leaders.
The country’s declining use of coal has been one of the most impressive of these moves, backed by strong country- and state-wide policies to minimize the use of coal for the sake of larger-scale emissions targets and the ever-present problem of air pollution levels.
Towards the end of 2014, China reported that its coal use had dropped by 1.28% — the first time coal use had declined in China this century. It was reported not long after that Chinese coal consumption and CO2 emissions both dropped in 2014. This was the beginning of a trend which we have seen play out over the last few years. Figures over the first few months of 2015 showed that coal use only continued to fall, inevitably leading to a coal consumption decline in 2016 of 3.7%.
China has also been working hard to eliminate unnecessary coal plants and future coal plant development, and over the last few months announced the cancellation of 30 large coal-fired power plants amounting to 17 gigawatts (GW), followed soon after by the cancellation of 104 more under-construction and planned coal projects amounting to 120 GW.
So it really comes as no surprise, therefore, that China is able to report further declines in coal use. In its Statistical Communiqué of the People’s Republic of China on the 2016 National Economic and Social Development, China’s National Bureau of Statistics revealed that coal consumption declined by 4.7% in 2016 over 2015 levels. In terms of coal’s role in the country’s total energy consumption, coal accounted for 62%, down 2%.
Meanwhile, clean energy consumption — including energy sources such as hydropower, wind power, nuclear power, and natural gas — accounted for 19.7% of total energy consumption, up 1.7%. Grid-connected wind energy increased to 148.64 million kilowatts, up 13.2%, while grid-connected solar increased to 77.42 million kilowatts, an increase of 81.6%.
Further, China’s national energy consumption per 10,000 yuan worth of GDP dropped a further 5% — continuing a long-term trend of decoupling economic activity from energy demand.
“Energy demand has decoupled from economic activity, and when this is combined with record annual renewable energy installations, China continues to diversify away from coal faster than anyone expected,” said Tim Buckley, the Energy Finance Studies Director with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).