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China Gives New Backing to Coal Even as Clean Energy Accelerates



March 6, 2023 - China signaled coal will retain its role as the country’s mainstay fuel even as the government continues to support the expansion of its world-leading clean energy industry.

The nation that mines and burns more than half the world’s coal will keep supporting the fuel, while targeting more efficient consumption and advanced production techniques, according to government reports released Sunday at the start of the National People’s Congress. In a speech in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang highlighted the role coal played in ensuring energy supplies and keeping domestic prices at comparatively low levels last year despite global inflation.

The support for coal won’t come at the expense of clean energy, with the country’s top planning agency saying it would make renewable mega-projects, electricity storage and power grid upgrades priorities for 2023. The government also targeted a 2% reduction in energy intensity this year after leaving out a numeric goal in last year’s reports.

The measures highlight China’s unique approach to the energy transition as it seeks to peak emissions by 2030 and zero them out by 2060. Even as it spends far more than any other nation on clean power, it’s leaning more on the dirtiest fossil fuel to ensure reliable energy supplies and reduce dependence on imports.

Energy security continues to be a focus for the country after global prices soared last year and the economy was wracked by power shortages. The government forecast tightness in the coal market and pressure on gas supplies this year, and said it would make make efforts to ensure reliability of supply under increased threats posed by extreme weather.