Blackouts and rising fossil fuel prices have made scaling up domestic energy production – clean or dirty – the priority for the Chinese government
Experts told Climate Home News that China has set five-year targets to increase both fossil fuels as well as renewables. These targets were unveiled Tuesday and are expected to be completed by the end of 2015.
China has outlined its energy plan for 2021-2025. It aims to increase the production of oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear energy, wind energy, and solar energy in order to prevent blackouts and reduce dependence upon foreign energy suppliers.
While tackling climate change remains a goal of the Chinese government, the volatility in energy prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed self-reliance up the agenda.
Greenpeace East Asia campaigner Li Shuo called China’s strategy an “all of the above” approach. “The short term priority is to ensure energy supply and boost growth,” he said.
“In the West, coal and renewable energy have an offsetting relationship. They are often paired together in China. And that’s of course not good from a climate point of view.”
Last September, the price for coal rose and Chinese power plant stopped buying as much coal as they needed. This caused electricity shortages. Some factories were forced to shut down, while others lost their heating, lifts, and traffic lights.
Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air analyst Lauri Myllyvirta said that, since then, “ramping up coal output has been a high priority”.
In January, president Xi Jinping poured cold water on climate hopes by saying that China needed to “overcome the notion of rapid success” and that “reducing emissions is not about reducing productivity and it is not about not emitting at all either”.
The soaring price of fossil fuels in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased China’s desire to produce its own energy, Myllyvirta said.
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Although the latest five-year plan doesn’t include a target for coal production in its current form, new small coal plants as well as upgrades to existing coal plants will be important in generating a huge 800GW of power generation capacity.
E3G analyst Byford Tsang said the plan “does not give us any new clues as to how China intends to ‘strictly control’ (a pledge given in the earlier national policy ‘1+N’) the most emission-intensive power source – coal”.
China plans to “recover and stabilise” oil output to 200 million tons a year by 2025, a 5% increase on 2018. It has set a target to produce 230 million cubic meters of gas by 2025. This is a 19% increase over 2020.
China also wants to increase its renewable energy and nuclear power. It aims to increase non-fossil energy consumption by 20% and non-fossil electricity generation by 39% by 2025.
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Refinitiv analyst Yan Qin said that this target was “not ambitious” and in line with existing 2030 renewable energy goals.
But Tsang said: “The plan shows that China remains committed to growing its clean energy systems. It lays out the steps required to facilitate China’s energy transition.”
It will do this largely through building “clean energy centres”, mainly in the poorer and sparsely-populated west of China.
It plans to build 450 GW of renewable power capacity in the Gobi desert. That’s more than the US’ entire wind and solar generating fleet.
The plan proposes investments in transmission lines that will help transport this electricity to its destination and pumped storage that will balance the grid.
Source: Climate Change News