China: home to over half the world’s coal pipeline

No New Coal: China overview

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Fiddler’s Ferry power station, UK, in the sunset
2021 sees the sun setting on coal power. Photo taken at Fiddler’s Ferry power station, UK, by Phil Gradwell, 2014. Via Flickr,
  1. China accounts for 55% of the world’s pre-construction pipeline (163GW), in addition to hosting over half of the world’s operating coal fleet.
  2. China has, however, seen a 74% reduction in the scale of its project pipeline, with 484GW of cancellations since Paris.
  3. Project cancellations outnumber newly operational capacity by 2.4:1, a much lower figure than in the rest of the world.
  4. Coal industry groups have proposed expanding coal capacity by a further 350GW, but recent analysis showsthat China can meet its energy security goals with no net new coal, keeping its emissions goals on track.
  5. China is isolated as the last major provider of public finance for overseas coal plants, with over 40GW of coal in 20 countries in the pre-construction pipeline.

China continues to dominate the global coal power landscape. China’s operating capacity grew in 2020, with a net increase of 38GW offsetting retirements in the OECD & EU.

However, even with its continued pursuit of coal in recent years, China has also seen a 74% reduction in the scale of its project pipeline. 484GW have been cancelled since Paris, in relation to only 198GW which became operational (a ratio of 2.4:1), as shown in Figure 1.

In response to the Covid crisis and its economic impacts, Chinese Provinces have sought to increase industrial activity. 15GW of new coal power capacity started construction in the first half of 2021, while 24GW of new projects were announced or re-activated from previous suspension. China’s pre-construction pipeline now surpasses that of the rest of the world combined. China’s pipeline now stands at 163GW, or 55% of the global pipeline, as shown in Figure 2.

This increase in project development activity is further illustrated in Figure 3 below, showing the post-Covid growth in the pipeline in 2020 and 2021. This growth stands in contrast to President Xi’s statement at President Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April 2021 that China would “strictly control” coal consumption growth in the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025). It should be noted, however, that this indicator refers to overall coal consumption (including by industry sectors) and does not refer directly to coal power capacity.

Read the China overview in full.

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