The flipside of China’s shift away from coal

Wang Zhi, assistant production manager of Jiamusi Zhongheng Thermoelectric Ltd, which was built in 1999 to provide 1.75 million GJ annually for Dalkia with an annual coal consumption of 350,000 tons (Photo: Asian Development Bank, Creative Commons, via Flickr)Wang Zhi, assistant production manager of Jiamusi Zhongheng Thermoelectric Ltd, which was built in 1999 to provide 1.75 million GJ annually for Dalkia with an annual coal consumption of 350,000 tons (Photo: Asian Development Bank, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

Two years ago nobody would have expected peak coal in China. China was fuelling global demand for coal. But the news that coal consumption is now falling, while welcomed by environmentalists, has consequences for a number of other countries, including Vietnam.

Coal consumption in China rose from 2.2 billion tonnes in 2005 to a staggering3.75 billion tonnes by 2011. And it continued to rise after 2011.

Everyone expected a further rise in these numbers. After all, China’s economy is growing. More factories and more shops need more energy. In the past China consistently met a large share of the increasing demand by building coal-fired power plants.

But China’s coal consumption is now declining for the first time in history. This decline is forecast to continue into the future. Coal imports declined by 11 per cent in 2014. Following the introduction of restrictions in terms of coal quality, imports now contain less ash and sulphur.

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