China reopening coal mines as electricity demand accelerates

a large yellow conveyor belt carrying coal and emptying onto a huge pile.

Coal-fired power generation in China is bucking global trends and getting ready to get bigger.

The nation’s National Development and Reform Commission last week announced that operations will resume in dozen of coal mines. The reopening is due to surging demand in the past year as China’s economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

China now accounts for more than half of the world’s coal-fired generation capacity, according to numerous reports. In the past year, coal-fired power rose nearly 2 percent there while it receded nearly everywhere else.

Renewable generation is rising in China, but not enough to keep up with electricity demand. Over the past five years that demand grew by nearly 1,900 TWh, according to reports.

China’s NDRC authorized 15 coal mines to restart production across the Shanxi and Xinjiang regions in the north, amounting to about 44 million tons of coal delivery. Other mines are reopening elsewhere.

Coal-fired power still provides close to 20 percent of electricity generation in the U.S. and globally, dropping dramatically from a decade ago. Most utilities in the U.S. and in Europe have announced goals to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Electricity demand in those developed nations, however, is flat or rising slowly. In China, however, electricity demand rose from zero early in 2020 to nearly 7 percent by December, according to figures released by the International Energy Agency.

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