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EU Climate Boss Raises Concerns Over China’s Coal Expansion

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.

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By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on July 04 2023 said:
    For China, the world’s largest economy based on purchasing power parity (PPP), energy security and the needs of its economy take precedence over any considerations including climate change.

    Moreover, China appreciates the benefits and the moral responsibility of reducing global emissions. That is why it is the world’s largest investor in renewables. It is equally fully aware that renewables on their own are incapable of providing its economy with the energy it needs without major contributions from natural gas, coal and nuclear power.

    This is a contradiction as Frans Timmermans who is in charge of the EU’s transition plans described China’s energy strategy while visiting the country. In fact, China’s energy strategy examplifies its realism and keenness in ensuring energy security.

    Moreover, it is very undiplomatic for the EU official to describe China's energy policy as a contradiction while he is visiting the country. Chinese officials are polite. They could have easily retorted that China doesn’t need lectures on energy from an official whose Secretariat's rash and hasty transition policies plunged the EU in the worst energy crisis in its history.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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