© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Coal is loaded into a bulk carrier at Qingdao Port, Shandong province, China, April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
BEIJING (Reuters) – China recorded its biggest increase in total energy consumption and coal use in a decade in 2021, as the economy recovered from COVID-19 slowdown a year earlier, data from the country’s statistics bureau showed on Monday.
China, the world’s biggest coal burner and greenhouse gas emitter, used 5.24 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent of energy last year, up 5.2% from 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.
The rate of growth was the highest since 2011, according to Reuters records based on official data.
The NBS also said coal consumption in China rose 4.6% in 2021, also the strongest rate of growth in a decade.
The government has pledged to restrict construction in high energy-consuming industries and has urged companies to save energy and boost efficiency, with soaring fossil fuel use undermining plans to cut carbon emissions.
President Xi Jinping has pledged to bring the country’s carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. However, he has not set a cap on total energy use or on carbon emission levels.
Despite rigorous measures including limiting electricity use in some regions, China’s energy intensity – a ratio measuring how much energy is used per unit of economic growth – fell 2.7% in 2021, compared to targeted reduction of “around 3%” for the year.
China approved the expansion of hundreds of collieries last year, involving an annual capacity increase of about 420 million tonnes. Output reached a record high as it strived to guarantee energy supply following a nationwide power shortage.
The state planner has ordered coal miners to maximise operations to ensure market supply, and last week said daily coal output has rebounded to the level of late 2021.
Analysts are concerned China is easing up on environmental pledges to shore up an economy hit by supply-chain disruption and “zero-COVID” restrictions.
“Energy security trumps decarbonisation ambitions at least in the short to medium term for China and we expect the country’s coal demand to keep rising steadily,” said Rystad Energy analyst Justin Jose.
China is scheduled to reveal targets for energy intensity and carbon intensity – which measures how much carbon is emitted while growing the economy – on Saturday during an annual gathering of parliament.