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China has been building a lot of wind and solar generation capacity but at the same time it has been expanding its coal power plant fleet and that is "a contradiction”, the man in charge of the European Union’s transition plans has said.
“And that seems to be in a contradiction and it is in contradiction,” Frans Timmermans said during a visit to Beijing, as quoted by the AP. He then added, "But at the same time, I do understand the anxiety caused by potential blackouts."
Energy supply reliability and security is the motivation that Chinese officials have repeatedly given for the expansion of the country’s coal power plant fleet, which has been rising steadily
At the moment, China is building or planning to build some 366 GW in new coal generation capacity, accounting for some 68% of global planned new coal capacity as of 2022.
Meanwhile, outside China, coal generation capacity is shrinking, with 2.2 GW getting retired in Europe last year and 13.5 GW of capacity retired in the United States—the highest rate of coal power plant retirement globally.
Many transition commentators have noted that if China is expanding its coal capacity at rates faster than the same capacity is shrinking elsewhere in the world, the energy transition is not exactly going to happen as planned.
Criticism has been reluctant, however, and cautious, as demonstrated by Frans TImmermans’ remarks this week. That’s possibly because China has the largest wind and solar capacity in the world or maybe because pressure through criticism is doomed to failure when applied to China. Another reason could be the EU’s dependence on transition materials and components that it imports from China.
Ironically enough, ANZ analysts recently forecast that China’s coal demand is set to increase further—because of its growing EV fleet.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.