Coal Consumption in China Rises at Fastest Rate Since 2005

EIA figures show the massive boom in China's coal consumption through 2010. Coal use increased another 9.7% in 2011

Energy consumption figures just released by the Chinese government underscore how quickly coal use is booming in China, a country that is already the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

In 2011, China’s coal consumption increased by 9.7%, the most year-over-year growth seen since 2005. The country also saw a substantial increase in natural gas consumption, which climbed by 12% in 2011. The figures, released this week by the National Bureau of Statistics, show just how much work needs to be done in order to de-carbonize China’s rapidly growing energy system.

There are a few positive trends to report, however. Overall energy consumption per unit of GDP declined another 2% — continuing the 19.1% decline in energy intensity since 2005. In addition, solar installations increased by an astonishing 547% and wind installations grew by 48% last year.

Non-fossil fuels — solar PV, solar thermal, wind, and hydro — now account for 9.4% of China’s primary energy consumption. Officials expect renewables to make up roughly 11.4% of consumption by 2015 and energy intensity to decrease another 16% by 2015. China is also in the process of rolling out provincial greenhouse gas trading programs in an attempt to decrease emissions 45% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.

These developments are promising, but they still don’t stop China’s rapid growth in emissions. Assuming a business-as-usual approach to energy development, the International Energy Agency projects that by the mid-2020s, China’s emissions will double those in the United States.

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12 Responses to Coal Consumption in China Rises at Fastest Rate Since 2005

  1. Sasparilla says:

    Wow, basically 10% increase over the last year….considering how huge their Coal use is (its like ~50% of the world or something), that is just staggering.

    Foot on the accelerator, clock tick, tick, ticking away…

  2. Lou Grinzo says:

    “Wow” is right.

    This is why I keep telling people that according to the best projections we have — the IEA World Energy Outlook 2011 — China and India are set to build a mind blowing amount of new coal-fired electricity capacity in the next 25 years.

    It’s also why I’m utterly unimpressed by what they’re doing so far with renewables. As best I can tell, China’s priorities are: [1] Grow the economy as quickly as possible to dominate the world stage, and fuel that grow via whatever combination of energy sources works, and [2] push renewables because they’re a great export item and they make for a lovely green wash over all that coal.

    If China and India stay on anything close to the path described by the IEA it doesn’t matter what the US, the EU, Japan, etc. do.

  3. ozajh says:

    I suspect Chindia’s PER-CAPITA emissions are still considerably lower than the other areas you mention. It’s going to be a huge negotiating problem for the currently developed World going forward, because we’re going to look like (and, in fact, be) total hypocrites if we try to stop/slow their growth without DEEP cuts of our own.

  4. Ben Lieberman says:

    We do need deep cuts in developed countries, but it is also time to institute a carbon tariff to remove the incentive for developing ‘cheap’ production based on dirty energy.

  5. quokka says:

    China’s per capita CO2 emissions are now similar to, or exceed, those of France:!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=en_atm_co2e_pc&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:CHN:DEU:FRA:USA&ifdim=region&hl=en&dl=en

    However, developed nations have a responsibility not just for their current but also for their historical emissions when it comes down to issues of “fairness”.

  6. Dave Bradley says:

    Greenwashing, definitely. Besides, where does the electricity for those PV manufacturing facilities come from? Odds are, coal.

    They seem to have the same problem with wind turbines but with a different flavor. Lst year China made and installed 16 GW of wind turbine capacity -but evidently most were not connected to the grid. Making wind turbines uses labor, steel, concrete and fiberglas-epoxy composites, and THat is the priority in China. But with such an excess of installed capacity, they are going to have to start dumping these onto the world market, only due totheir poor quality, that might be difficult.

    PV panels basically just consume electricity and labor, with some glass, fixtures, silver, aluminum and specialty chemicals. They cranked up manufacturing capacity to absurd levels, and had to dump them onto the world market, but the world is pushing back. So now they have to consume these domestically. And even if China made and installed 5 GW of PV, that might average 750 MW on a delivered basis. Complete chump change, and too expensive to use in factories set up for mercantilistic domination possible via both cheap labor AND cheap electricity.

    More important than how much greenwashing China does on wind and PV, the world needs to stop importing Chinese crap at the rates that we are presently doing -notably steel, chemicals, and plastic stuff. That will cut down coal use. Also not mentioned was “Peak Domestic Coal” for China. They have to go elsewhere to supply incasing quantities of coal, since thier easy to get low cost coal is either gone or going fast. Perhaps we should put export taxes on coal shipped from the US.

  7. MarkfromLexington says:

    What is the rate at which China’s coal imports are increasing? What percentage are China’s imports – compared to the total coal exported? And what is the rate at which those imports are rising?

  8. Barry Saxifrage says:

    Tonnes of CO2 per-capita in 2010

    5.9 France
    6.3 Spain
    6.8 CHINA
    6.8 Italy
    8.1 UK
    8.1 EU-27
    16.9 USA

    With 10% growth in emissions in one year Chinese are probably pushing 7.5 tCO2 now. The estimate is that they will pass Brits within another year and pass Americans by 2017.

    The sure don’t seem to care about their carbon given the run-away nature of their emissions and their sprinting past Europeans in per person spew.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It is quite plain from this story that China is making greater strides in renewables and lowering energy intensity than any other country, certainly than the USA, which is making no progress and will probably go into reverse under President Santorum. So while China’s rising coal consumption is disastrous, to point the finger at China is avoiding the issue. The issue is that the rich countries, who have put most of the greenhouse pollution into the atmosphere, and who are still the highest per capita emitters (much of China’s emissions are proxies of the rich world, which moved their manufacturing to China)and who are still refusing to do anything, and continue, as ever, trying to foist the burden onto the poor world.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Dave, you seem to have a very belligerent attitude towards China. Might I suggest that the last thing humanity needs at the moment is for the USA to try to reverse its economic eclipse by launching a trade war with China. I know it must be galling to see your ‘Manifest Destiny’ to dominate the world forever evaporating, but if China and the USA co-operated, we might yet get out of this pickle. If we attempt to solve the crises of the 21st century with the methods of the 20th, we are doomed.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A good deal of the rise in China’s emissions and the fall in Western emissions is due to the transfer of manufacturing to China from the West. In these circumstances, and given China’s progress in raising efficiency and spreading the use of renewables, I see no way that these developments can be used to place the main burden of blame for our predicament on China.

  12. Leif says:

    With the price of Solar PV at a dollar a watt and previous production sold at ~$3/W I would say that China now has the capacity to start supplying Solar PV to their economy paid in large part by exports to the west. Very sound policy IMO. Even if they might have had to go in the hole for the build-out. Look what they get!