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China Doubles Down on Renewables and Coal in Its Quest for Energy Security

China Doubles Down on Renewables and Coal in Its Quest for Energy Security - Certrec

On June 29, 2023, The Diplomat, wrote in their article, ‘In the Name of Energy Security, China Is Doubling Down on Both Renewables and Coal,’ that China is simultaneously the world’s largest producer of renewable energy (wind, solar, hydropower), as well as coal power. China’s demand for energy keeps growing with their need to maintain economic growth. It is becoming increasingly difficult for China to provide affordable energy, while balancing energy security and climate goals. Hence, to ensure energy security, China is producing power from coal as well as renewables.

In an article by Reuters, David Fishman, senior manager of China-based energy consultancy, the Lantau Group, said, “New renewables generation has not been able to cover all the demand growth in any specific year, which means some additional coal generation is still needed each year.”

China’s Quest for Energy Security

The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines energy security as “the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price. Energy security has many aspects: long-term energy security mainly deals with timely investments to supply energy in line with economic developments and environmental needs. On the other hand, short-term energy security focuses on the ability of the energy system to react promptly to sudden changes in the supply-demand balance.”

Energy prices have increased tremendously following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Additionally, Beijing’s supply chain disruption at home has caused the government to focus on energy security. Energy inefficiencies are a hurdle to growth, which is why Chinese policymakers have been leaning on coal power to support the baseload supply of the country, because the output from renewable plants keeps fluctuating.

A lack of storage capacity for renewable energy is also a concern. However, according to the Diplomat, China’s focus on innovation in the clean energy sector will foster the development of more advanced energy storage technologies, like thermal storage systems, compressed air energy storage, float battery, and hybrid.

A report by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said “We will strengthen the basic supporting role of coal (and) take orderly steps to increase advanced coal production while ensuring safety.”

Climate Efforts Can’t Compromise Energy Security President Xi Jinping - Certrec

Climate Efforts Can’t Compromise Energy Security: President Xi Jinping

According to Bloomberg, in January 2022, President Xi Jinping said that China’s climate targets must not compromise its energy security. Climate targets must work in conformity with the government’s other objectives; as policymakers try to create a balance between conflicting environmental and economic aims. He said that the nation’s carbon goals must not become a hurdle in achieving other priorities, which include food security, energy security, and ensuring the security of materials.

In spite of the pressure from the international community to steer away from the use of coal to produce energy, China’s President Xi chose to take the steady route of transitioning from coal, in order to ensure energy security. He has pledged that the country’s coal use will peak in 2025 and will begin to fall in 2026.

Hence, China’s high coal production and consumption will persist till the government can ensure that its renewable sources are completely built out. This is bound to have an effect on the worlds progress towards decarbonization. 

Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Certrec. This content is meant for informational purposes only.