Essay by Eric Worrall
First published Jo Nova; Leftist think tanks rationalising China’s dash for coal as a bureaucratic hiccup.
China Pledged to ‘Strictly Control’ Coal. The Opposite Happened.
What Beijing’s about-face on coal power means for climate change—and how the world can push back.
By Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, and Byford Tsang, a senior policy advisor in E3G’s London office.
In April 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to “strictly control coal-fired power generation projects” in China. Since then, government permits for new coal power plants have soared. According to analysis of Global Energy Monitor data, in the two years before Xi’s pledge, the government approved 127 plants, collectively capable of producing 54 gigawatts of coal power. In the two years after, that number rose to 182 plants, with 131 gigawatts of coal power. In short, China’s new coal power capacity has more than doubled.
The recent about-face on coal is odd for Beijing, which generally under-promises and over-delivers on climate commitments. Controlling new coal power projects is one of the few pledges China has made from now until 2025. Furthermore, more coal power is not necessary to keep the lights on, since China has a booming clean energy sector.
The underlying reason for the shortages, however, was the rigid and outdated way that China’s power grid is operated. The hardest-hit province, Sichuan in the southwest, had to continue exporting electricity to far-flung eastern provinces under inflexible contracts while rationing power at home. In a well-functioning power grid, electricity flows would have been readjusted, with Sichuan importing electricity and other provinces increasing power generation. But China’s grid operation is too inflexible to use existing capacity and infrastructure efficiently. The country thus requires excessive power capacity to avoid shortages.
Read more: https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/11/12/china-coal-climate-change-carbon-emissions-pledge-plants-apec/#cookie_message_anchor
It is also possible China has realised their renewables don’t work, and is rushing to fix the problem, but somehow that explanation didn’t occur to the think tank analysts.
The divergence between the coal plant build rate of China and the West is comparable to looking at a Satellite photo of North and South Korea.
For now the lights are still burning in the West, but for how long? Nobody has figured out how to make renewables viable, there likely is no affordable path to a renewable energy powered future. For this reason, the rate at which coal plants are being built is a strong indicator of future energy availability.
In the next few decades, our remaining decrepit coal plants will fail – and in the West, we are not building enough replacements. When the day of reckoning arrives, if we don’t change course, the only place where the lights will still be burning are in parts of Asia which have prioritised energy affordability and availability over the Western climate cult.
The founding Prime Minister of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, once told Australia’s leaders we were in danger of becoming “the poor white trash of Asia”.
On that occasion Australia’s leaders were shocked into action by Lee’s words, and enacted powerful, far reaching economic reforms which revitalised the Australian economy. For a time after Lee’s warning, even left wing politicians prioritised economic reform and development.
But the reason for and commitment to those reforms has been forgotten. The once vital enthusiasm for sound economic management has faltered. Unconstrained energy policy folly has brought all of us in the West to the brink of that economic collapse and national humiliation Prime Minister Lee once warned us about.
Update (EW): As WUWT recently noted, India is no laggard when it comes to coal power development, they just announced a 60% increase in coal production. The Global Energy Monitor view of india is also impressive.