China’s clean energy transition will continue despite the challenges to global energy security posed by the conflict in Ukraine and a return to coal in Europe, and it remains on track to meet its carbon goals, energy officials said on Wednesday.
The world’s top energy consumer and greenhouse gas emitter has been trying to strike a balance between its commitments to bring emissions to a peak by 2030 and its need to guarantee energy supplies and rejuvenate its economy.
But China is still poised to expand the share of non-fossil fuel energy in overall consumption by an average of one percentage point a year between now and 2030, said Zhang Jianhua, director of the National Energy Administration, at a news conference in Beijing.
“Under the tight energy supply conditions last year and the restarting of coal power in many European countries, the development of non-fossil fuel energy in our country has continued unabated,” Zhang said.
Non-fossil fuels, including wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower, supplied 16.6% of China’s total energy needs last year, up from 15.9% a year earlier.
As the Ukraine war upended global energy markets, sending prices of natural gas and thermal coal to record highs, China has repeatedly stressed the importance of energy security, raising concerns it could backslide on climate goals.
China aims to start cutting coal use starting from 2026, with President Xi Jinping saying in March that China could not simply “slam the brakes” on consumption.
Officials told reporters on Wednesday that major utilities now held record thermal coal inventories of 170 million tonnes, an increase of 52% on year, with the government promising that their bottom line would be “no power cuts.” A wide swathe of China suffered outages last year.
Li Chuangjun, director of the administration’s renewable energy department, said the green transformation of the global energy system is irreversible over the long term, and China was well-placed to take advantage.
China exported 78.6 gigawatts (GW )of solar equipment and components in the first half of this year, up 74% on the year, with earnings more than doubling from a year earlier to reach $25.9 billion, he added.
Still, China started building 33 GW of new coal-fired power generation capacity last year, the most since 2016, research published earlier this year showed.
The newly added capacity under construction was three times more than the rest of the world combined, said Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and U.S. think tank Global Energy Monitor (GEM).
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