Skip to content

BBC’s False Claims About China Solar Power Exposed

May 18, 2016
tags: ,

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.


Exhibit 1


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.


Exhibit 2


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.

  1. May 18, 2016 1:21 pm

    The pie chart says it all: coal 66%, wind+solar+bio: 2%.

  2. NeilC permalink
    May 18, 2016 2:05 pm

    Yes, but wind+solar+bio has increased by 100% of bugger all to slightly more bugger all. So as long as it’s 100% green energy increase that satisfies the UN statistical idiots.

    Oh have I given the BBC ammo/sarc

  3. It doesn't add up... permalink
    May 18, 2016 11:54 pm

    I commented before on how China’s coal statistics are a can of worms. I dug out my history of BP World Energy Reviews to produce this chart based on 2011, 2014 and 2015 reviews. It shows domestic production and its implied average calorific value (in kcal/kg, the standard measure in coal trading), and consumption as reported in each year in mtoe.

    The first thing to note is the massive changes in implied calorific value of production: in 2011, BP had shown a history of steadily improving average quality. By 2014 they were completely unsure of themselves, and so used a flat figure of 5,000 throughout as a holding device. In 2015, they appear to have had some grounds for revising the calorific data from 2000 onwards – ending with sharp falls from 2007 onwards in average quality mined, implying a large increase in lignite production at the expense of quality coals (with likely emissions consequences, no doubt…).

    It’s also worth noting that the upward revision in historical consumption figures is entirely responsible for the decline: the mtoe figure previously reported for 2013 was actually 1.9% lower than the 2014 figure. The figures for consumption in 2007 range between 1320 and 1573 mtoe – nearly 20%. That’s a lot of rope for conveying whatever message you want to convey. In China’s case it seems they now prefer to warm the past to make the future look better. I’ll leave others to note some of the other discrepancies that the varying statistics produce.

  4. May 20, 2016 8:53 am

    In Britain, solar PV uses more energy over its lifetime than it makes. The energy return on energy invested, ERoEI(ext) for solar PV = 0.83. For every 83 units of energy made, solar PV uses 100. This finding is from recent research into German and Swiss solar PV by two Swiss-based researchers: Ferruccio Ferroni, Robert Hopkirk, just published in Energy Policy, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2016.03.034 Their conclusions (and a link to their paper) can be found here:

    In order for an energy source to be ‘sustainable’ it must ultimately give back more energy than it uses. The originators of ERoEI believed an energy source must give back at least 5 times more energy than it uses (ERoEI = 5). Other energy researchers claim an ERoEI = 12 is needed for sustainability. Projecting from this research, it looks to me like solar PV is unsustainable in most places on earth.

    I notice total radio silence from BBC over this research even though it has now been available for many weeks. A paranoid person might think BBC were spinning the news on renewable energies.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: