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State Utility Expects China’s Coal Imports to Stay Flat This Year

Chinese coal imports this year are expected at around the record levels of 2023, according to an executive at China’s state-run utility Guangdong Energy Group.  

China’s coal imports jumped last year by 62% to a record high of 474.42 million metric tons, driven by high demand, lower-quality domestic coal, and higher domestic prices.

This year, imports are expected to be between 450 million and 500 million metric tons this year, Reuters quoted Wu Wenbin, head of coal management at Guangdong Energy Group, as saying on Friday.

The expected flat volumes of coal imports this year compared to 2023 would come despite a forecast of a 4% rise in Chinese coal demand.

Early this year, official statistics data showed that higher power demand and efforts to boost energy security pushed China’s coal production to a record-high level in 2023.

China continues to rely on coal and coal-fired power generation to meet its growing power demand, and despite being the world's top investor in solar and wind capacity, it also plans a lot of new coal-fired electricity capacity.

Global coal demand was set to rise by 1.4% in 2023 and surpass a record-high level of 8.5 billion tons for the first time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in an annual report in December.  

While coal demand in the United States and the EU was set for a 20% record decline, coal use in emerging economies “remains very strong, increasing by 8% in India and by 5% in China in 2023 due to rising demand for electricity and weak hydropower output,” the IEA said in its Coal 2023 annual report.

China’s coal demand is expected to drop in 2024 and plateau through 2026, and global demand is set to decline to 2026, “but China will have the last word,” the IEA noted. 

The outlook for coal in China will be significantly affected in the coming years by the pace of its clean energy deployment, weather conditions, and structural shifts in the Chinese economy, according to the agency. 

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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