Data from Global Energy Monitor (GEM), a group that tracks power generation projects worldwide, shows that China was responsible for construction of 96% of all new coal-fired facilities globally last year, and for almost 70% of all new coal-fueled power plants that came online.
GEM, a San Francisco, California-based non-governmental organization that tracks fossil fuel and renewable energy projects worldwide, on Feb. 6 published its latest Global Coal Plant Tracker, which provides information about new construction and other data by country and by megawatt capacity. The report shows China accounted for nearly all new construction that would use coal, along with 81% of newly announced projects. The country accounted for more than 47 GW of new coal-fired generation capacity coming online in 2023, or 68% of the global total of new operating units.
The report shows that China has placed more than 191 GW of new coal-fired generation into service over the past five years, or 64% of all new coal power projects that entered operation worldwide from 2019-2023.
Chinese officials have said they will continue to build coal-fired power plants even as most of the world moves away from coal-supported generation. China has said that much of its coal capacity will serve as a backup power supply for renewable energy. The country also leads the world in deployment of renewable energy, including solar, wind, and hydropower. Government data has shown that China receives more than one-third of its electricity from renewables.
A GEM report last year said China is set to double its renewable energy capacity and produce 1,200 GW of power from wind and solar by 2025, or five years ahead of the country’s stated goal for renewables. The report said that through the first quarter of 2023, China’s utility-scale solar capacity had reached 228 GW, more than that of the rest of the world combined.
China primarily uses domestic coal for its power generation. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics released in January showed coal production in China hit a record output last year, at 4.66 billion metric tons, which was 2.9% higher than output in 2022.
Data from the General Administration of Customs published in January said China also is importing record amounts of coal. The agency said higher demand for power that resulted after restrictions around the COVID pandemic were lifted, and higher prices for China’s domestic coal, led to imports rising nearly 62% year-over-year in 2023, to 474.42 million metric tons. Much of the increase was tied to higher imports from Indonesia, the world’s leading exporter of thermal coal.
Chinese officials have said they expect the country’s demand for coal to be lower this year, and to continue to decline as more renewable energy is deployed. The International Energy Agency in a recent report on trends in the global coal market, though, noted that China will continue to drive the global market, depending on the country’s economy.
This story will be updated.
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).
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Author: Darrell Proctor