Despite Beijing’s push to promote less polluting energy sources, 2017 saw China’s coal consumption pick up for the first time since 2013, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday (February 28).
The bureau’s annual National Social and Economic Development communique shows that China, the world’s biggest coal consumer, used 0.4 percent more coal in 2017 compared to the previous year.
However, it is believed that the country is still on track to fulfil its promise to decarbonize its economy and reduce air pollution by 2020 through cutting the coal portion to below 58 percent of total energy consumption.
As a portion of total energy consumption, coal usage fell 1.6 percentage points to 60.4. Meanwhile, clean energy, including natural gas and renewables, rose 1.3 percentage points to 20.8 percent from 2016.
While the above numbers are positive, total energy consumption rose by 2.9 percent to 4.49 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent, which is still below the target of 5 billion tonnes by 2020.
According to Harri Lammi, global coal campaigner at Greenpeace, “[t]he slight increase in China’s coal demand doesn’t really change the overall trend of declining demand in coal’s largest market.”
Lammi believes that despite the communique results, China will continue to step back from coal as renewable energy installations take off.
In fact, the National Energy Administration reported that China had a total of 163.7 gigawatts of installed wind capacity and 130.3 gigawatts of solar capacity by the end of 2017, up 10.5 percent and 68.7 percent compared to a year ago.
Going forward, China plans to introduce tougher air-quality targets to cover the 2018 to 2020 period and will continue to push the conversion of coal to clean energy.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Nicole Rashotte, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.