Coal consumption in China dropped for the first time this century last year, falling 2.4% as cleaner forms of energy production rose and manufacturing output slowed, the National Bureau of Statistics said Thursday.
Despite an increase in overall energy use flagged in the NBS annual report, environmental campaigners Greenpeace said the coal drop meant China’s energy sector CO2 emissions fell by 1 percent in 2014.
“The key factors behind the fall are rapid growth in renewable energy generation, improvements in energy efficiency and the rebalancing of the economy away from energy-intensive industries and investment,” Lauri Myllyvirta, an energy expert with Greenpeace, said.
“All of these are long-term trends that enable China’s coal use to peak and decline, and CO2 emissions growth to slow down dramatically this decade,” he told Carbon Pulse.
China’s rampant coal use growth of 5-10% a year over previous decade had been a major contributor to the rise in global emissions and raised alarms among climate scientists that the planet was headed for runaway global warming.
China’s total energy consumption climbed 2.2% to 4.26 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent, the NBS report said.
This was due to increases in consumption of crude oil (5.9%) and natural gas (8.6%) consumption both increased as steel and cement production rose by only 1.2% and 2.3% respectively.
Despite the drop, coal still accounted for 66% of China’s energy consumption in 2014, while rapidly advancing cleaner energies – defined as renewables, nuclear and natural gas – made up 16.8%.
Installed solar power capacity increased 67%, wind 25.6% and hydro 7.1% while installed nuclear capacity, a key priority for China, grew 36.1%.
Installed thermal power rose 5.9%, growth that has made some observers doubt whether China can sustain last year’s trend towards peaking and lowering its emissions.
By Stian Reklev – email@example.com