Still Heavily Reliant on Coal Despite Commitment to a Clean-Energy Transition

Spotlight Activity: Still Heavily Reliant on Coal Despite Commitment to a Clean-Energy Transition

China has some of the richest coal resources in the world.  Since 1949, the Chinese government has strategically regarded coal as its basic energy source.  Coal consumption has amounted to more than 70% of all energy use in China (Wang, 2018). Wang Hanning, an expert and a professor in the field of environmental engineering in Jiangxi University of Science and Technology, predicted that the trend of using coal as the major source of energy will not change in the short-term due to its strong contribution to the development, the construction and the security of Chinese national economy.  However, the Chinese government recently announced a plan to reduce coal consumption from 70% to 58% in the 13th five-year plan.  

The geologic area for coal is large in China. It is found in four regional belts across the country. There are two belts from north-to-south and two belts from west-to-east shaped like a hashtag “#”. The abundance of coal reserves is high in the western part of China but relatively low in the eastern part. The largest coal producer currently is the Shendong Coal Company. Its operations are in Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Shaanxi, three major coal producing provinces.  

Chinese provinces that develop fast and require more energy are mainly clustered in the east. Therefore, because domestic coal is hard to transport, the eastern provinces tend to import coals. Since 2009, instead of being a net exporter of coal, China has become a net importer of coal.  In 2011, China’s coal imports exceeded 200 million tons.

Feng Liqun (2012) author of the magazine China Custom, predicts that China’s demand for coal will reach 1.5 billion tons in the next 20 years. It is said that this demand will be met through increased imports of coal.

Currently, it seems impossible that China will phase out of coal usage anytime soon. The latest energy consumption forecast is that by 2020, the amount of energy coming from coal will be reduced to 58%, from 61.2% in 2016. China’s high use of coal is understandable to some extent. As a rising developing country, China does need a lot of energy to boost its national economy and support its citizens’ living standards.  China has a population of approximately 1.4 billion people. Surprisingly however, China has a lower CO2 emission per capita rate than the United States.

To minimise the ecological and environmental damage from coal exploration sites, leading coal producing companies in China have been investing heavily in making improvements in technology used for coal extraction and processing. Chinese companies are taking steps to make sure that their coal is low in phosphorus, has low sulphur elements and mid-to-high burning efficiency. It also is worth noting that China’s investments in green, renewable and sustainable energy are encouraging an energy transition from a coal burning economy to an economy based on renewables and sustainable development.

Status: Standing Still

China has the intention of supporting an energy transition from non-renewable to renewable energy. However, the quantity of the coal consumed in China is still too high.

Take Action

You can support the transition from coal to renewable energy in China by sending the following message:

“Thank you for promoting the renewable energy quota system.  However, please make sure to consider how to effectively reduce the usage of the coal, no matter if it’s from the domestic or imported source.”

Send Action Alert Message to:

Lifeng He, the director of National Development and Reform Commission, through the flowing website:

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