China’s Transition From Agrarian Poverty Fuelled By Mountains of Coal

China’s rise is built on the same black stuff that dragged Europe out of the dark ages: mountains of coal.

While the ever inscrutable regime in China outwardly pays lip service to climate warriors railing against carbon dioxide gas, with a wink and a nod to its own wind and solar schemes, China is building coal-fired power plants and nuclear plants hand over first.

As China’s love affair with coal and nuclear power flourishes, the CCP has turned on unreliable wind and solar, with a vengeance. Of course, you don’t become an economic and military power overnight relying upon sunshine and breezes for your energy.

No doubt China will continue to flood the world with second-rate wind turbines and solar panels, with the latter being built by Uighur slave labour. But, with a renewed focus on energy security, the days of wind and solar generation in China are well and truly numbered.

Aurora Almendral appears to believe that the CCP still has a place in its heart for chaotically intermittent wind and solar, but he must have missed last year’s Party memo which spelled out the plans to dramatically slash subsidies to the unreliables (we’ll set t out for the uninitiated below).

China’s energy transition will be powered by coal
Aurora Almendral
24 May 2022

China’s energy transition is navigating the tension between the country’s shift to renewables and the challenges of energy security. For China, energy security right now simply means using more coal.

At a May 24 panel discussion at the World Economic Forum at Davos, energy expert Daniel Yergin, vice-chairman of research firm S&P Global, noted that while China’s 14th 5-year plan still makes investment into renewables a cornerstone of China’s climate plan, “energy security is back on the table. The amnesia about energy security has been put aside.”

Energy security is a reference to a country’s need to supply stable, affordable energy to its citizens. As it stands now, the supply of renewable energy in China, as with the rest of the world, falls far short of its economic needs, and the country remains heavily reliant on coal.

China has had a booming last few years for renewable production. In 2021, the country installed more wind power than the rest of the world combined, surpassing its own goals of building renewable energy power. But it has also faced down an energy crisis that caused rolling blackouts across the country last year, shuttering factories and causing lights to flicker off in homes just as last year’s winter was setting in.

China’s short-term answer to the power crunch was to release more coal. When the war in Ukraine further tightened global energy supply, China turned to Russia, buying up record amounts of coal, as Western sanctions kept some of its former customers away.

So a panel on China’s energy transition that discussed various renewable technologies and projects, also segued into one that touched on the topic of “not enough investment in conventional energy,” in Yergin’s words, a concern felt at China’s highest levels. According to climate news outlet Carbon Brief, Chinese president Xi Jinping said that he had instructed his top officials that “major incidents, such as large-scale ‘power outages’ must not be allowed to happen again.”

Aurora Almendral reckons that wind and solar are still a cornerstone of the CCP’s energy policy. This was the position 12 months ago and, if anything, China has only become more serious in its quest for reliable electricity.

China suddenly puts brakes on climate action, wind and solar subsidies
Jo Nova Blog
Jo Nova
18 June 2021

It’s almost like China’s climate action was just window dressing. It seems to be unraveling…

China’s National Carbon Trading Scheme was supposed to go into full operation later this month, but now it’s been cut back by two-thirds. Instead of burdening 6,000 companies it will only afflict 2,000. And only a week ago, the Chinese government suddenly axed solar and wind subsidies, with the cuts starting just six weeks from now. Oilprice calls it “a crushing blow for wind and solar”. In a devastating move, there are even demands that solar plants have to sell electricity at the same price as coal power. The cruelty!

China produces three quarters of all the world’s solar panels, having subsidized-the-heck out of the global industry, exploited slave labor and driven the US leaders out of production.

Judging by the Wall St Journal story — in the last two months the paradigm has shifted from Environmental control to Economic priority. Perhaps solar power wasn’t much use for building ballistic missile submarines?

How different things would be if solar was actually cheaper than coal…

No new solar power plant subsidies. Just like that?
China to stop subsidies for new solar power stations, onshore wind projects in 2021
11 June 2021
China will no longer grant subsidies for new solar power stations, distributed solar projects by commercial users or onshore wind projects from the central government budget in 2021, the state planner said in a statement on Friday.

And now solar power can only sell at the same price as coal power? Really?

Electricity generated from the new projects will be sold at local benchmark coal-fired power prices or at market prices, the statement said.

Probably the reason for the solar subsidy cuts is because the bill had heated up to $42 billion by mid last year. And those subsidies are largely paid by electricity consumer serfs who weren’t too happy*.

China Delivers Crushing Blow To Wind, Solar Power
Irina Slav
11 June 2021

The country’s finance ministry had previously committed to granting 57 percent more subsidies to solar power projects this year, although it did slash subsidies for wind power.

Yet the reasons for the cut—and this year’s end of subsidies—were not exactly altruistic. China has amassed a massive debt pile in subsidies owed to wind and solar companies as a result of its previously generous support for new projects. The pile, according to a Bloomberg report from July last year, is worth about $42 billion.

The CCP cut solar subsidies in 2018 too — which caused solar stock prices to fall.  But last October, President Xi told the world China would be net zero by 2060, which set stocks rising back up. Go, communist planning, Go! Apparently there is also internal division and pressure from some provinces who don’t like power shortages where they have to suspend operations. There’s just no pleasing some people…

Things are tough all round for the solar industry in China — it is also facing serious shortages in materials like polysilicon. There is quite the cost squeeze on.
Given the size of some of the cuts the Wall St Journal headline is tame:

China Tempers Climate Change Efforts After Economic Officials Limit Scope
Wall Street Journal
Sha Hua and Keith Zhai
9 June 2021

China’s top economic planners have put the brakes on attempts by environmental officials to reduce carbon emissions…

China, which has done very well out of the Year-of-Covid, now wants to do even better: the-environment-be-damned?

… rather than giving priority to the reining in of fossil-fuel consumption now, officials at the economic planning office want to seize the momentum of the global post-pandemic recovery, even if it means elevated emissions in the short term, according to people familiar with the matter.

It was only in March when the Environmental ministry discovered steel companies were being naughty and slapped savage emissions cuts on them, but the economic ministry stepped in and has undone that slapping:

On May 31, at the behest of economic planners, China’s steel hub Tangshan ordered the loosening of emissions restrictions for its steelmakers—undoing a March directive that came after environmental ministry inspectors found the companies in violation of environmental regulations and instructed the companies to cut emissions by 30% to 50%.
Wall Street Journal

These are big flips in the space of eight weeks.
Jo Nova Blog

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