China’s key industries could hit peak coal use by 2024, new research shows

BEIJING : China’s major coal consuming industries, including power, steel, cement and coal chemical production, could hit peak use of the fossil fuel around 2024, a government research report said on Wednesday.

China has pledged to bring its carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and to start phasing down coal use after 2026.

The four industrial sectors made up more than 86 per cent of total coal consumption and more than 70 per cent of total carbon emissions in China.

China is the world’s biggest coal user and greenhouse gas emitter, due to its large population which is 4.35 times that of the US. China is home to 1.44 billion people and the United States to 331 million in 2020. Per capita US greenhouse gas emissions are double those of China.

Coal use in those four sectors could peak at 2.48 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent, said Cao Dong, Senior Research Fellow, Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, a research institute affiliated to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment at a seminar.

“Coal use at steel and cement sectors should have reached a peak (in 2020 and 2021), followed by coal chemicals by around 2024,” Cao said.

The Tuoketuo Power Station is located in Togtoh County, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. It is the largest coal – fired power station in Asia.

The power sector, however, would only hit peak coal consumption by around 2028 due to growing electricity demand and concerns over energy safety, Cao said, adding that carbon emissions would hit a high one year after coal use peaks.

Just under 60 per cent of China’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, and a drop in coal production this year caused widespread power outages this winter.

Cao also estimated a total of 24.1 trillion yuan (US$3.77 trillion) of investment would be needed to control coal consumption at the four industries by 2035.

However, the transition could generate annual gross domestic product of 159.5 billion yuan from sectors such as renewables and equipment manufacturing. (US$1 = 6.3858 yuan)

Declining use of coal at key industries would reduce exports by an average of around 1.03 trillion yuan per annum by 2035 and further limit demand for raw materials such as iron ore and limestone.

Iron ore imports already dropped by 4 per cent in the first 10 months of 2021 as China limited steel output to meet the central government’s emissions reductions targets.

SOURCE: [Edited] Channel News Asia, 17 Nov 2021.