Monday, August 24, 2015

Chinese Coal Use Falls Amid Shift To Renewables

Dan Heyman, Public News Service 

Production of Chinese coal mines and the use of coal by power plants fell by more than 3 percent last year and looks likely to continue falling. Photo by Peter Van den Bossche/Wikimedia.
Production of Chinese coal mines and the use of coal by power plants fell by more than 3 percent last year and looks likely to continue falling. Photo by Peter Van den Bossche/Wikimedia.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – China's use of coal fell last year and looks likely to keep falling.

The U.S. coal lobby argues that any reduction in American carbon pollution will be swallowed up by more CO2 from China.

But after decades of explosive growth, Chinese coal use fell by as much as 3.5 percent last year.

Some of that is due to a slowing economy, but Nicole Ghio, a representative with the Sierra Club's international climate and energy program, says the government there has declared it is shifting away from coal.

She says international observers have been stunned by how quickly and totally they are putting that change in place.

"The important thing to understand is that it's real,” she stresses. “We've already seen the use of coal in China drop in 2014, which is huge. No one could have even imagined that happening."

Ghio says the Chinese government has declared a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. She says China is closing some existing plants, and not running many of the others full time.

Ghio adds the Chinese government is commanding that the economy put its full weight behind renewable energy, especially solar.

She says in part that's because thousands of people die there every day due to the country's notoriously bad air pollution.

"Air pollution in China is estimated to kill around 4,000 people a day,” she points out. “And that's largely coming from coal-fired power."

Ghio adds India – the next largest developing country – also is moving rapidly to renewables. She says that's being driven by the fact that small, local wind and solar projects typically are cheaper than extending the main electric grid.

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