News of record installations of so-called renewable energy electric generation in China may have kindled the hopes of those supporting the “green” agenda and hostile to fossil fuels. However, China is in no position to give up hydrocarbons, particularly coal.
During the first half of 2023, China approved 52 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power, which was more than all the approvals issued in 2021. [emphasis, links added]
Why is China doing this despite climate pledges? And what does the future hold?
Turning Away from Paris One Step at a Time
Nearly all countries signed the historic Paris Agreement in 2015, which set aggressive goals to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels.
The assumption was that reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels would halt future warming deemed as catastrophic.
Many praised these promises, celebrating China’s apparent acceptance of its supposed responsibility to address the climate issue.
But these promises are at odds with reality.
China’s economy is mostly based on fossil fuels, which are the most affordable, abundant, and dependable energy source.
Last year, 82% of the total energy consumed by China came from coal, oil, and natural gas. Wind and solar, despite significant investments by Beijing, represented just 7% of all energy consumed in 2022.
This growing appetite for coal is inevitable given the huge demand from the power sector and industry in general.
Demand from Industries to Increase Coal Demand
Over one billion tons of crude steel are produced in China each year, accounting for over half of global steel output. The Chinese steel industries—over 90% of them—use coal-based processes.
Despite introducing in 2021 a policy to curb emissions of CO2, Beijing has yet to announce any cap for steel production.
S&P Global believes that there will be “no mandatory steel output cuts this year.” The crude steel output in 2023 is to exceed 2022 levels.
According to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, “Chinese steel firms are making significant investments in new coal-based steelmaking capacity.”
To put this in context, China’s approval of new steel capacity per year is twice that of the entire capacity of the German steel industry.
Like steelmaking, manufacturing cement is energy-intensive, with coal accounting for up to 85% of the energy used in the process. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of cement.
According to analysts, “China consumes as much cement every two years as the U.S. did over the entire 20th century.”
Cement production is projected to increase further in the coming years, and high demand will possibly last for decades.
Read more at RealClearEnergy
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