China generated 53 per cent of the world’s total coal-fired power in 2020, nine percentage points more than its coal-power generation five years earlier, despite climate pledges and the building of hundreds of renewable energy plants, a global data study from Ember, the London-based energy and climate research group showed.
Although China added a record 71.7 gigawatts (GW) of wind power and 48.2 GW of solar last year, it was the only G20 nation to see a significant jump in coal-fired generation, said Ember. China’s coal-fired generation rose by 1.7 per cent or 77 terawatt-hours, enough to bring its share of global coal power to 53 per cent, up from 44 per cent in 2015, the report showed.
China has promised to reduce its dependence on coal and bring emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gas to a peak before 2030 and become “carbon neutral” by 2060. “China is like a big ship, and it takes time to turn in another direction,” said Muyi Yang, senior analyst with Ember and one of the report’s authors.
China has been unable to find enough clean energy to meet rapid increases in demand, with renewables meeting only half of China’s power consumption growth last year. New coal-fired power installations reached 38.4 GW in 2020, more than three times the amount built by the rest of the world, according to a February research report.
China also approved 46.1 GW of new coal-fired projects last year, more than the previous three years combined, with new projects still getting the go-ahead until late in the year, environment group Greenpeace said on Monday.
China slashed the share of coal in total energy consumption from around 70 per cent a decade ago to 56.8 per cent last year. But absolute generation volumes rose 19 per cent over the 2016-2020 period, Ember calculated.