China Led Half of World’s Coal-Fired Power Generation in 2020

China coal-fired power

A new report has emerged stating that China is responsible for more than half of the world’s total coal-fired power generation. 

Publication of the data shows that in spite of recent – and massive – investments into renewable energy production, China’s reliance on coal-fired power generation threatens to undo global efforts in fighting climate change. 

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As it stands, China generates 53% of the globe’s total electricity sourced from coal-fired powerplants, according to data published by Ember

This figure increased 1.7% over 2019’s figures to a total of 77 terawatt-hours of coal-sourced power. To make things worse, China increased its share of coal-fired power generation up from 44% of the globe’s total output in 2015 to the 53% mentioned in this report. 

This figure, however, is significantly lower than the 70% figures China was posting around ten-years ago. Overall, coal-fired power generation has increased by just under 20% through the period between 2016 to 2020. 

The sliver of good news, however, is that China has indeed added a record number of renewable energy production to its grid, with 72 gigawatts of wind power and 48.2 gigawatts of solar power installed. 

The authors of the report say that “China’s strong growth of electricity demand has necessitated the expansion of both renewable and non-renewable generation,” and that the gains of renewables are essentially being cancelled out by a reliance on coal-fired power generation. 

China Led Half of World’s Coal-Fired Power Generation in 2020

China coal-fired power

We reported last year that China’s President Xi Jinping made a pledge that the world’s largest polluter would become carbon neutral by 2060. 

“We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060,” he said, adding that China was positioned to “seize the historic opportunities presented by the new round of scientific and technological revolutions and industrial transformation.” 

Muyi Yang, senior analyst working at Ember has said that “China is like a big ship, and it takes time to turn in another direction.” 

“China needs to drive electricity consumption to be more efficient, to further promote ‘high quality’ economic growth, and to deepen electricity pricing reform, aimed at making electricity prices more cost-reflective,” Yang said. 

Up until 2006, the U.S. was the world’s largest producer of carbon emissions, with a grid swamped with electricity provided by coal-fired power plants until it was overtaken by China. 

Since then, the U.S., along with Europe have worked at reducing their overall carbon emissions, with Europe in particular taking the lead when it comes to renewable energy production. 

According to data from OurWorldinData “some populous countries with some of the highest per capita emissions – and therefore high total emissions – are the United States, Australia, and Canada.” 

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