China’s energy use in 2022

China’s coal consumption increased by 4.3% in 2022, according to a National Statistics Bureau (NSB) communiqué released on 28 February. 

However, according to analysis by Lauri Myllyvirta in Carbon Brief, the true year-on-year rise may be closer to zero.

The communiqué shows that output in the (coal-intensive) steel and cement industries fell 2% and 11% respectively, and other official data states that coal-fired electricity generation only rose 0.9%.

According to a newly released International Energy Agency (IEA) report, China’s energy-related emissions actually declined by 0.2%.

In the IEA’s view: “Growing emissions from combustion were offset by declines from industrial processes. Weaker economic growth, declining construction activity, and strict Covid-19 measures led to reductions in industrial and transport emissions. Power sector emissions growth slowed compared with the average of the past decade but still reached 2.6%.” 

The NSB communiqué states that the share of “clean energy consumption, such as natural gas, hydropower, nuclear power, wind power and solar power” in total energy consumption rose 0.4 percentage points last year, to 25.9%.

A record 125 gigawatts (GW) of solar (38 GW) and wind (87 GW) capacity was added in China in 2022, breaking the previous record from 2020, according to News BJX.

According to the communiqué, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) was 121 trillion yuan (US$17.6 trillion) in 2022, up 3% on the previous year. Excluding 2020, when economic activity was hit by the pandemic disruptions, China’s GDP growth last year was the weakest since the 1970s.

This raises concerns that big infrastructure, such as power plants, will be built to boost economic activity, troubling China’s efforts to peak emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality before 2060.

In 2019, the year before the pandemic, 27% of global greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to have come from China, followed by the US with 11% and India with 6.6%.

When China’s GDP target for 2023 is announced at the Two Sessions legislative and political meetings starting on 4 March, it may put even more pressure on provinces to stimulate growth.

Huang Runqiu, minister of ecology and environment, warned that some local officials may launch “two highs and one low” projects – high in energy consumption and pollution, low in efficiency. Some enterprises may risk illegal production and illegal wastewater discharge for profits. These will increase environmental risks, and put more pressure on ecological and environmental protection in 2023, he said. 

Read China Dialogue’s earlier report on China’s move to increase coal supplies.