BBC’s False Claims About China Solar Power Exposed
By Paul Homewood
Dr David Campbell, Professor of Law, tore to shreds the latest piece of blatant propaganda from the BBC, as I reported yesterday here.
Essentially, the BBC Radio 4 programme, Costing the Earth, enthusiastically described the extremely vigorous growth of the Chinese solar energy industry. It concluded that this growth was an important part of developments that undermined what was pejoratively labelled the ‘China excuse’ for western countries not to adopt very demanding emissions reductions targets, the excuse being that the size of Chinese emissions made those targets pointless. Far from China’s emissions and projected emissions making such targets pointless, this growth was changing China’s energy mix in a way that would so reduce China’s emissions as to allow western reductions to succeed. In particular, ‘China’s coal consumption’, it was claimed, is ‘now declining’.
Professor Campbell, being a legal expert, naturally produced a detailed demolition of the BBC claims, and in doing so showed their naivety and dishonesty. As was pointed out though, there is maybe a need for a simple statement of the facts, which would serve the same purpose.
Let’s start by looking at the breakdown of China’s primary energy consumption for 2014, the last year figures are available for, using the BP Energy Review.
Clearly even solar/wind/bio added together are barely making a dent in the overall energy mix. Solar on its own only contributed 0.2% in 2014.
The idea that solar will make the slightest difference to coal consumption in the near future is risible nonsense.
We can also look at the trends since 2000.
It should be noted that, while coal stalled in 2014, natural gas/oil have carried on increasing, adding another 30 Mtoe in 2014,compared to an extra 3 Mtoe from solar. Most of the rest of the overall increase came from hydro, with 33 Mtoe more.
According to China’s INDC, installed capacity for solar amounted to 28.05 GWh in 2014:
BP show solar output of 29.1 TWh (6.6 Mtoe), giving capacity utilisation of 12%.
The INDC also promises to increase solar capacity to 100 GW by 2020:
Based on 12% utilisation, this would produce 105 TWh annually, equivalent to 23.8 Mtoe.
Total primary energy consumption in China in 2014 was 2972 Mtoe, so even this trebling of solar capacity will only be able to contribute 0.8% to the energy mix by 2020, even assuming energy consumption does not continue to grow.
Whilst China has plans to use coal more efficiently, and the stated objective in the INDC of raising the share of gas in primary energy consumption from 5% to 10% by 2020, it is self evident that solar power will not lead to any reduction in coal consumption in the foreseeable future. Far less bring about the energy revolution implied by the BBC.