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China’s Hunger For Coal Is Growing

For the first time since the Chinese coal plant construction frenzy began in the 1980s, the total coal-fired capacity outside China has shrunk over the past 18 months as China continues to add more and more coal-fired power plants, a new study from Global Energy Monitor showed.

Between January 2018 and June 2019, the world minus China saw their total coal power capacity decline by 8.1 gigawatts (GW). At the same time, China increased its coal-fired power plant fleet by 42.9 GW, resulting in the global coal fleet growing by 34.9 GW over the past year and a half, the report said.  

“The continued growth of China’s coal fleet and consideration of plans to significantly raise the nation’s coal power cap show that while the country is often hailed as a clean energy leader, the momentum of coal power expansion has yet to be halted,” the authors of the report wrote.

Global Energy Monitor also warns that the massive increase in Chinese coal power capacity is not compatible with the Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

According to Global Energy Monitor’s analysis, if China were to meet the reductions in coal power use as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the country would need to cut its coal power capacity by more than 40 percent from the current 1,027 GW to 600 GW or less by 2030.

Instead, China’s coal use is heading in the opposite direction.

Although China has been stepping up its coal-to-gas switch, its coal capacity will still continue to grow in the coming years.

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According to the BP Energy Outlook 2019, coal demand in China peaked in 2013, but the country will remain the world’s largest consumer of coal throughout the next two decades, accounting for 39 percent of global coal demand in 2040.  

While coal capacity in China is set to grow, the country will cut the total size of its renewable power subsidies for this year, Reuters reports, citing the Chinese Ministry of Finance.

The move is not unexpected. Beijing said earlier this year it would only approve new solar and wind power installations if their developers can prove the energy they generate is as cheap as that generated in coal-fired power plants.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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