China’s economic growth is very much at odds with her environmental problems. As the economy grows, so does need for power, two-thirds of which is generated by coal.
Looking at the air in China’s great cities, such as Shanghai or Beijing, it’s quite obvious that a dark cloud hangs over the residents. Quite literally, in fact, smog is choking China’s skies and killing her residents. The problem, much as with other parts of the world, where two-thirds of emissions come from power production and transportation. Part of China’s temporary fixes have been to stop ground and air traffic, much of which is poorly regulated, but this doesn’t solve the problem. The major problem is PM2.5 (particulate matter under 2.5 microns), most of which is generated by Chinese coal-fired power plants.
According to data from 2012, China does not have a widely diversified power mix. China’s 1,124 GW power-generating capacity is dominated by coal, providing 67% of the mix. Hydroelectric power accounts for another 20%, leaving the other 13% provided by a mix of other renewable and non-renewable technologies. China’s booming economy is expected to more-than-double her power needs, as high as 2,867 GW by 2030. At the same time, will China reduce its dependency on coal?
Looking at the percentages, I was immediately optimistic, as some estimate that Chinese coal power might make up only 38% to 45% of the power mix, by 2030. This would allow for larger percentages of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. That may seem encouraging, until we realize that 38% of 2,867 GW, 1,089 GW coal capacity in 2030, is greater than 67% of 1,124 GW, just 753 GW coal capacity in 2012. As seen even here in the United States, China’s adoption of renewable energy sources won’t even keep up with increasing power demands. Instead, China’s reliance on coal will only continue to increase.
Photo credit: Mike_tn / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), Bloomberg New Energy Finance