China Built Three Times as Much Coal Power in 2020 as the Rest of the World Combined

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A joint report released Wednesday by the U.S.-based Global Energy Monitor (GEM) and Helsinki-based Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) found China built over three times as much coal-fired electrical power capacity in 2020 as the rest of the world combined.

As Voice of America News (VOA) delicately observed, this tremendous surge of coal-burning power plants, which are ostensibly one of the worst sources of global warming emissions, would seem to “undermine” China’s loudly declared “short-term climate goals” and Chinese dictator Xi Jinping’s promises to make his country “carbon-neutral” by 2060.

The GEM/CREA report found China’s coal power capacity grew by a net 28.8 gigawatts. China built coal plants at such a frantic pace, to provide cheap power for its swelling industrial capacity, that some of its coal plants might never repay their construction and maintenance costs:

China approved the construction of a further 36.9 GW of coal-fired capacity last year, three times more than a year earlier, bringing the total under construction to 88.1 GW. It now has 247 GW of coal power under development, enough to supply the whole of Germany.

A team of central government environmental inspectors delivered a scathing assessment of China’s energy regulator last Friday, accusing officials of planning failures and focusing too much on guaranteeing energy supply.

The NEA had allowed plants to be built in already polluted regions, while projects in less sensitive “coal-power bases” had not gone ahead, they said.

China has been criticized for pursuing an energy-intensive post-COVID recovery based on heavy industry and construction, and experts say new coal plants could end up becoming heavily-indebted “stranded assets.”

“The runaway expansion of coal-fired power is driven by electricity companies’ and local governments’ interest in maximizing investment spending, more than a real need for new capacity,” CREA lead analyst Lauri Myllyvirta judged. – READ MORE

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