(Montel) China’s rising use of coal “complicates” its green targets but does not mean it will fail to meet them, with the country’s renewable capacity rollout likely to exceed plans, an Oxford Institute of Energy Studies (OIES) analyst said on Monday.
“I think it complicates the targets, it doesn't necessarily undermine them, in a large part because the targets are very vague,” Michal Meidan told Montel on the sidelines of a Coaltrans conference in Madrid.
“You can sort of work around them,” she said, adding “you can still have peak coal before 2030, and you can still reach net zero by 2060”.
However, the coal peak demand could be higher than previously expected and later than it would otherwise have been, she noted.
She referenced statistical review of energy data, showing China’s coal production rising to over 4.5bn tonnes in 2022, compared with around 3.5bn tonnes five years before.
Chinese import demand for coal reached 282m tonnes in January-October, which was more than 70% higher on the year, according to estimates from consultancy DBX.
Meidan said the rise in Chinese coal demand was “potentially something more sustained”.
“Coal is an important source of energy security and reliability, but so is renewable energy,” she said.
China aims to add 1,200 GW of installed wind and solar capacity by 2030.
“They now have 900 GW of installed capacity and their target for this year was [an additional] 160 GW,” she said, pointing out that the country would likely exceed this amount.
“If they keep up these kinds of growth rates over the next couple of years, they'll exceed their targets well before 2030,” she said.
In China’s 15th five-year plan, which begins mid-decade, it will start phasing out coal.
“But even though utilisation rates are low and expected to fall as renewable additions rise, new capacity market regulations could end up further supporting coal,” she said.