China Emissions and Energy Sources
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China

China is a major emitter of CO2. Its powerhouse economy and huge manufacturing operations - together with a population of almost 1.5 billion people (but now starting to decline) - mean that it uses a lot of energy.

You may have seen various reports showing that it is increasing its use of renewable energy, which sounds like good news. However, the reality is that China primarily still relies on fossil fuels for its energy, and currently their consumption of fossil fuels is still increasing.

We need to avoid celebrations of China's moves to increase the use of renewable energy whilst ignoring their increased use of fossil fuels.

China needs to reduce emissions as well. What will cause them to start down that road? Reduced demand, perhaps?

China Emissions

The chart shows the progress of China's CO2 emissions from 1990 onwards.

Despite numerous reports of China's increasing use of renewable energy, emissions continue to rise. This is mainly because of China's continued - and still increasing - use of fossil fuels.

It will not be sufficient for China's rate of increase in emissions to slow. The emissions need to decrease, and this needs to happen soon and quickly.

When will China's emissions actually start to fall?

When will they be low enough that they don't cancel out the savings made elsewhere on the planet?

China Energy Fuel Mix

Another factor that is often cloaked by news of new renewable capacity in China is the increasing use of coal. Not only is coal generation still increasing in China - as you can see in this chart - but new capacity continues to be built.

Although China has made statements about limiting the build of new coal capacity, exclusions include those related to dealing with the variability of renewable sources, i.e. China realises that its increasing use of variable sources will continue to need more dispatchable backup.

Apart from China's continuing heavy dependence on coal, note that other major sources of energy are fossil fuels. These include gas and oil.

China News

August 2023: China's energy-security push drives up fossil-fuel approvals

Reuters report that China approved more than 50 gigawatts of new coal power in the first half of 2023, research by environment group Greenpeace showed. The world's top carbon polluter is focusing on energy security rather than cutting fossil fuel consumption.

The impact of extreme weather has spurred China to build even more coal-fired plants as it tries to counter the effects of drought on hydropower production and to avoid power outages.

April 2023: China doubles down on coal ahead of potential summer blackouts

Reuters report that China plans to accelerate the approval of new coal mines and fast track the construction of already approved mines to support its baseload energy supply during demand spikes.

China's peak energy demand is expected to exceed 1,360GW this summer, which represents a "significant increase on last year".

February 2023: China Ramps Up Coal Plant Approvals Despite Emissions Pledge

As reported here, China last year approved the largest expansion of coal-fired power plants since 2015.