China's plans to limit coal usage over the next five years and reduce its consumption during the 15th Five-Year Plan period (2026-30) will spur the low-carbon transformation of the country's electric power system and ensure that it achieves its goal of peaking carbon emissions before 2030, experts said.
Addressing the Leaders Summit on Climate via video link from Beijing, President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that China will limit the increase in coal consumption during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) and reduce coal consumption during the 15th Five-Year Plan period, with an eye on strictly controlling coal-fired power generation projects.
Stressing that the carbon peak and carbon neutrality targets have been added to China's overall plan for ecological conservation, Xi said the country is drafting an action plan and taking strong nationwide steps to peak carbon emissions, while a national carbon market will soon start trading.
Amid growing concerns about global climate change, China has said it would peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2060.
Experts said coal power is likely to become a balancing power instead of the main force, with the number of hours and percentage of coal power generation gradually decreasing. Coal power will play the role of supporting renewable energy to make sure that cleaner fuels play a key role in the country's energy mix.
China is also planning to reduce the share of coal in its overall energy mix to less than 56 percent this year, according to a guideline recently released by the National Energy Administration, compared with 56.8 percent in 2020 and 57.7 percent in 2019.
"China has set well-rounded targets for not just coal reaching below 56 percent by the end of this year, but also for renewable energy to hit 11 percent (of the energy mix), all of which can help in the transition toward the 2030 carbon peak goal," said Wei Hanyang, a power market analyst at Bloomberg New Energy.
"However, the process would require coal power functions to shift from baseload to balancing power. It will have to face downward pressure from power market price, and almost at the same time, increasingly serve the intermittent renewables that will dominate the dispatching system."
Inefficient coal power plants may be forced out of the market in a shorter time frame than expected, he said.
It is hard to fundamentally change China's energy mix and sharply reduce the use of coal in overall energy consumption in the short term as energy consumption in the country is expected to continue growing with urbanization and industrial transformation going on, said Sun Zhen, deputy director of the climate change department under the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
He Jiankun, dean of the Institute of Low Carbon Economy of Tsinghua University, said that China is still in the middle and later periods of developing its industrialization and urbanization to bolster economic growth.
Despite China enhancing its energy conservation and carbon reduction efforts, total energy demand will continue to grow for a certain period of time, he said, adding that it is necessary to strictly contain the coal consumption growth during the 14th Five-Year Plan period and ensure its steady decline in the next five years.
This year, China plans to further replace coal in final energy consumption with electricity equivalent to 200 billion kilowatt-hours, while increasing the proportion of electricity in final energy consumption to 28 percent, according to the National Energy Administration.
China will also strive to bring the installed capacity of non-fossil energy to 1.1 billion kilowatts and cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by around 3 percent this year.
China will further strengthen control of the total coal consumption, push forward the efficient and clean use of coal, encourage comprehensive energy services and enhance energy-efficiency management, said the NEA.