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China’s Coal Power To Remain Dominant Till At Least 2035

January 28, 2020

By Paul Homewood



I covered this story from Greenpeace a few months ago, but I can now add some further detail from the China Energy Portal:



The largest power producers in China have asked the government to allow for the development of between 300 and 500 new coal power plants by 2030 in a move that could single-handedly jeopardise global climate change targets.

It comes as coal-fired power capacity additions in 2018 slowed to their lowest rate since 2004, both in China and globally, though carbon emissions from the sector continued to rise, according to the International Energy Agency.

In its review of the government’s five-year-plan, China Electricity Council (CEC) – the influential industry body representing China’s power industry – recommended adopting a ‘cap’ for coal power capacity by 2030 — but the 1300GW limit proposed is 290GW higher than current capacity. The target is for the country’s coal-fired capacity to continue to grow until peaking in 2030.

The cap would enable China to build 2 large coal power stations a month for the next 12 years, and grow the country’s capacity by an amount nearly twice the size of Europe’s total coal capacity.


The China Energy Portal now has the full article, originally published in China Power Enterprise Management, on which the above Greenpeace story was based.

The translation from Chinese is not brilliant, but it gives some insights into the projections for 2035. We know that the China Electricity Council are calling for 1300GW of coal capacity by 2030, when they say it will peak. But what about afterwards?

The article gives us some clues:

1) Total electricity demand is projected to rise from 7300 to 11400 TWh a year.

2) The target generation for non-fossil fuels is 57%, so fossil fuels would therefore be 4902 TWh. Currently they are running at 5045 TWh. In other words, even by 2035 it will be only slightly lower than now.

3) Much of the increased demand will be supplied by new nuclear capacity, which is expected to rise from 48GW currently to 248GW by 2035. Along with new hydro capacity, this could supply half of the extra power demand.

4) The translation is ambiguous when it comes to wind/solar, but reading it generously implies that wind and solar capacity will increase to 600GW each, from 210 and 204GW currently.

On this basis, they will combined be contributing about 20% of China’s electricity by 2035 – hardly a stunning amount, and no more than the UK is achieving now.

All of this means that thermal power, effectively nearly all coal, will still be the major source of China’s electricity in 2035, accounting for 43%.


If the Greenpeace assumptions are right, new coal fired capacity could amount to between 330 and 470GW between now and 2030, after allowing for retirements of older plants.

Add on to this the new coal fired capacity added since 2006, something in the region of 700GW, and there will be an awful lot of modern coal power plant still operational by 2035. It is hard to see China shutting any of that prematurely, as long as the marginal operating costs are less than the full cost of replacing it by other sources.

In short, anybody who thinks that China’s coal power output will suddenly start to plummet after 2030, even if it peaks then, is in for a rude awakening!


The China Portal translation of the original article is here.

  1. Graeme No.3 permalink
    January 28, 2020 9:42 pm

    There is a better hope that Greenpeace will be shut down before those new power stations are shut down.

  2. Mack permalink
    January 28, 2020 9:53 pm

    Having recently heard from Sir David Attenborough, at the inauguration of the the new UK version of the the Committee of Public (Climate) Safety, bemoaning the fact that democratically elected governments can’t solve the global warming problem because of their relatively short time spans in power and, by inference, implying that dictatorships can do the job better, I very much look forward to his new documentary on the planet’s biggest polluter, that well known beacon of freedom and fossil fuel free energy production, China. A country that has caused more worldwide environmental damage in 30 years than any nation before it. Or, perhaps not. I dare say Greta won’t be cheerleading any school strikes there any time soon either?

  3. January 28, 2020 10:03 pm

    Can they achieve that much coal supply?

    • Derek Reynolds permalink
      January 28, 2020 10:43 pm

      . . . And some! But they are building nuclear as well.

  4. January 29, 2020 9:12 am

    Does anyone know the likely % of global co2 emissions that China will represent in 2025 and 2035?

    I for one will be willing to live in a tent and suck bark so the UK can reduce its emissions to zero in order for China to have free rein in emitting what they want. I am sure that St Greta also believes that, which is why she is not protesting in China, or indeed anywhere near their embassies.

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