China remains on track to meet its carbon reduction goals and boost green energy, a top official said on Wednesday, even as coal inventories soar.
The world’s second-largest economy plans to expand the share of green energy by an average of one percentage point a year between now and 2030, said Zhang Jianhua, director of the National Energy Administration.
China has been trying to strike a balance between its commitments to bring emissions to a peak by 2030 and its need to guarantee energy supplies and rejuvenate its economy.
“Under the tight energy supply conditions last year and the restarting of coal power in many European countries, the development of non-fossil fuel energy in our country has continued unabated,” Zhang said.
China is the world’s top energy consumer and greenhouse gas emitter but non-fossil fuels, including wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower, supplied 16.6% of China’s total energy needs last year, up from 15.9% a year earlier.
Energy Security Stressed
As the Ukraine war upended global energy markets, sending prices of natural gas and thermal coal to record highs, China has repeatedly stressed the importance of energy security, raising concerns it could backslide on climate goals.
China aims to start cutting coal use starting from 2026, with President Xi Jinping saying in March that China could not simply “slam the brakes” on consumption and switch to green energy.
Officials said major utilities now held record thermal coal inventories of 170 million tonnes, an increase of 52% on year, with the government promising that their bottom line would be “no power cuts”. A wide swathe of China suffered outages last year.
Li Chuangjun, director of the administration’s renewable energy department, said the growth of green energy is irreversible over the long-term, and China was well-placed to take advantage.
China exported 78.6 gigawatts (GW) of solar equipment and components in the first half of this year, up 74% on the year, with earnings more than doubling from a year earlier to reach $25.9 billion, he added.
Still, China started building 33 GW of new coal-fired power generation capacity last year, the most since 2016, research published earlier this year showed.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell