Sunday, July 26, 2015

Global Coal Boom Ends as China — and World — Wakes Up to Reality of Carbon Pollution

Face masked Chinese (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
“Global coal demand is slowing fast,” is the headline in a June Business Insider Australia story. “The global coal renaissance is the most important climate story today,” is the headline in a July Vox story.

Which is correct?  Mostly the first one.  There was a true global coal renaissance starting around the year 2000, a resurgence due primarily to China.  But it is now stalling.

China was responsible for some 80 percent of the growth in global demand since 2000. You can see that in this June 15 chart from BP’s Group Chief Economist based on their newly-released “Statistical Review of World Energy 2015.”

China, however, has completely reversed its strategy of coal-intensive growth as Climate Progress has been reporting since the U.S.-China climate deal was announced in November. The driving force of this reversal is the terrible toll coal pollution has taken on the health of Chinese citizens in urban or industrialized areas — combined with the growing realization at the highest levels of China’s government that climate change will devastate China and that it must become a leader in avoiding the worst impacts.

The result of two of China’s strategies. (Credit: BP) Click to Enlarge.
You can see in the chart at right the result of two of China’s strategies.  First, they are working to aggressively take market share away from coal and accelerate the transition to low-carbon and zero-carbon sources — natural gas, nuclear, wind power, solar power, and hydropower.

Second, on the industrial side, they are transitioning away from the coal-intensive and energy-intensive industries that have been driving growth and speeding up the transition to a more balanced economy, with much more service sector growth.  Many of the Chinese climate and energy experts I spoke to during my trip last month used the word “sustainable” to describe the economy that the leadership would like.

The result of this second strategy began to bear fruit last year, as this BP chart shows:

These two Chinese strategies combined are a key reason why China cut its coal consumption in 2014, the first drop this century.  And since China has been the engine of the world coal market, it’s no surprise that global coal demand flatlined at 0.4 percent year over year growth in 2014.

Moreover, China’s coal-slashing strategies continue to have a huge impact into this year. Domestic demand continues to drop, and as Platts reported Wednesday, “China’s thermal coal imports in the first six months of 2015 were 42.35 million mt [metric tons], a 44% fall from the year-earlier period.”

China isn’t the only big user moving away from coal.  In the United States, coal growth has been reversed by a combination of the economic slowdown, low natural gas prices, rapid expansion of renewables, and aggressive energy efficiency.  As we reported earlier this month, for the first time ever “In April, 31 percent of electricity generation came from natural gas while 30 percent came from coal.”

“The Latest Sign That Coal Is Getting Killed,” was the headline of a July 13 BloombergBusiness piece, which noted “About 17 percent of U.S. coal-fired power generation will disappear over the next few years, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).”

Read more at Global Coal Boom Ends as China — and World — Wakes Up to Reality of Carbon Pollution

No comments:

Post a Comment