China’s main economic planning agency on Friday warned the country’s coal miners against seeking excessive profits during the current energy crisis, saying they could face penalties.
The NDRC has repeatedly warned it would intervene in energy markets, as Beijing sought to damp down surging prices and ease a widespread power crunch. On Friday it said it would “strictly punish” companies reaping “exorbitant profits”.
The most active futures on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange, for delivery in January, fell to 1,380.80 yuan per tonne – a figure more than 30% lower since Tuesday’s all-time peak of 1,982 yuan per tonne.
Coking coal fell 11% and coke futures dipped 9.5% on the Dalian Commodity Exchange.
The NDRC said on Tuesday it was studying ways of intervening to lower coal prices and bring the costs of power down, calling on local officials to “strengthen the supervision of the coal power market”.
Power Generation ‘Guidance’
The agency said it would “investigate and punish violations of laws and regulations in a timely manner to maintain a good market order, guide power generation companies, especially coal-electricity joint ventures, to participate in power market quotations reasonably”.
The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which oversees China’s state enterprises, said on Monday that energy shortages and soaring prices have hit the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Real gross domestic product grew just 4.9% last quarter, a significant slowdown from the previous quarter’s 7.9%, while seasonally adjusted growth came in at just 0.2%.
Sara Johnson, executive director of global economics at IHS Markit, said the energy crunch and property sector debt, were the biggest threats to China’s economic stability.
Coal-based thermal power accounts for 70% of the country’s electricity generation. “But it has been constrained by Beijing’s decarbonisation policies and cessation of coal imports from Australia in 2021.”
• By George Russell