Coal in China: huge problem for clean power, climate efforts


Coal, by Flicker user oatsy40 (Used Under CC License)

Coal, by Flicker user oatsy40 (Used Under CC License)

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Over the past few years, China has made impressive strides in renewable-energy investment.

The promotion of renewable energy will only become more important as China works to meet its commitments under the recently-ratified Paris climate agreement.

But the country's reliance on coal for electricity generation still poses a huge problem for these clean-energy efforts.

DON'T MISS: India, EU ratify Paris climate agreement: takes effect next month

Coal demand in China—as well as other Asian nations—will likely rise over the next few years even as these nations seek to limit carbon emissions, according to Bloomberg.

On the other hand, clean-energy investment will decrease 15 to 20 percent this year, Michael Liebreich—founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance—said in a conference in Shanghai last week.

It's worth noting that a major reason for this drop in investment is that the cost of equipment used to generate electricity from wind and solar power is also falling.

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Stagnating electricity demand from a slowing economy also means that there will likely be excess electricity-generating capacity in the short term, which is dissuading investors from funding additional infrastructure.

A previous Bloomberg report predicted that installation of new solar and wind farms would drop 11 percent in 2017, which mark the first recorded decline in the history of the modern renewable-energy business.

ALSO SEE: China ratchets down green-energy growth for first time ever

Bloomberg notes that a common refrain is that China builds two coal power plants a week.

It says that practice will likely continue, although it may drop to one plant a week within the next five years.

wind farm

wind farm

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Meanwhile, Japan is expected to increase use of coal as government officials predict a boost in electricity demand over the next 15 years.

Japan typically imports most of its fossil fuels at high prices, and new nuclear power plants have been a non-starter since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

MORE: Renewable energy growth accelerating, says International Energy Agency

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is promoting hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative power source, presumably in concert with renewable energy to help create the necessary hydrogen.

He envisions a "hydrogen society" in which fuel cells power not only vehicles, but also buildings and infrastructure.

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