Global recession hits China’s power demand

China's power generation

Andy Revkin is tracking the story at Dot Earth.

The drop-off in demand — and in carbon emissions — is certainly temporary, but may provide a window of opportunity for Obama to begin crucial negotiations with the world’s other big emitter. If the planet is to have any chance of stabilizing at 450 ppm, we must cap emissions by 2020, and China must cap emissions by 2020 (see “Must-read IEA report explains what must be done to avoid 6°C warming“).

7 Responses to Global recession hits China’s power demand

  1. hapa says:

    everything is temporary, on some time scale.

  2. In fact, there is no drop-off in demand (yet). What’s dropping is the rate at which new power-generating capacity is added.

  3. hapa says:

    peter i think that’s wrong. this isn’t growth of growth rate. it’s comparison of power generated from one year to the next, expressed as percentage change.

    however — wow i’m glad you said that — it’s true that this graph doesn’t read how it looks. it does not mean that less energy was produced in october this year than in september this year. this chart actually has a lot of missing information — what were the numbers from 2006 and 2007? we can see that the first 9 months of 2007 were higher than usual growth, so the first 9 mos of 2008 are not as much a cut as they seem, though there’s a drop, probly to do with oil prices? and quickening recession?

    but as january/february shows we need to know if there was or wasn’t a spike in 2007 (and we need to see 2006 for context) to read this chart correctly. it’s odd that those aren’t there.

  4. hapa says:

    ah. i see. coal prices went crazy in winter and spring, supplies got very tight over the summer (in part because of olympics restrictions!), then increasing impact of global crash on manufacturer electricity demand in late summer and fall. and soon people will say that chinese coal burning for both electricity and process heat really truly dropped?

    if there’s a negotiatable moment it’s about coal volatility maybe. it was the bank calamity that solved their summertime peak coal problem.

  5. True: Power generation fell off slightly in the last months of 2008 relative to the same months in 2007.

    – Even for those months generation in 2008 will have exceeded generation in 2006 and every year before it;
    – Generation for 2008 as a whole will still be much higher than 2007; and
    – Total generation capacity is still increasing (albeit at a slower rate) which means electricity production from coal will come roaring right back as economic activity picks up again.

    The latest figures mark a positive trend, but they are hardly a “collapse” in coal-fired generation (to use Andy Revkin’s terminology).

  6. hapa says:

    “production from coal will come roaring right back” but the current demand drop is “hardly a ‘collapse'”? why would it roar if it wasn’t a big drop. hehe.

    “as economic activity picks up again” is an interesting question. there’s a lot of lost housing and asset bubble wealth world-round to replace — and also to compensate for higher saving/debt servicing/wound licking — a lot of new spending has to be located for chinese manufacturing to return to “normal” while improving their coal delivery infrastructure and general supply access. and hmm, those coal prices for heat and power, those oil prices for shipping, not a good situation. the possibility that their eggs were in too few baskets is pretty real.

    i bet, right about now, they’re wishing they’d meant it when they built those ecocities and had been a little more aggressive in getting coal exposure down.

  7. Peter,

    The 4th quarter did mark a collapse in Chinese coal demand and its carbon emissions. After years of growing ~10% per year, November thermal output tanked more than 10% and December down 9%! A complete reversal! See details at:

    Yes, they are adding capacity currently, but they’ll stop doing so if consumption continues to stagnate or even drop in ’09. And some of the capacity additions will be wind, so 2009 carbon emissions for China may be lower than ’08 emissions – huge news after the once considered inevitable and permanent emissions increase in the country.

    Here’s hoping massive efficiency deployment once recovery takes hold will keep emissions from returning to high growth rates.

    Onwards to sustainability,