China releases 12th Five-Year Plan for coal


Guest post by chinadialogue intern Wang Haotong

China’s National Energy Administration has just released its 12th Five-Year Plan for the coal industry, revealing that clean-coal conversion technologies will play a key role in the industry’s future.

China is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of coal. In 2010, it produced 3.24 billion tonnes of it, and used an estimated 3.4 billion tonnes, accounting for approximately 48% of global consumption. And so, for China to make use of clean coal technologies would be of enormous environmental significance – more so even than any move to build up alternative energy sources.

The Five-Year Plan has outlined four key areas for clean coal: efficient generation of electricity from clean coal; use of advanced coal-conversion technologies; deployment of improved energy-saving technologies; and finally, pollution control, carbon-capture and storage and energy-recycling technologies.
Half of the coal that China consumes each year is used to generate electricity, while more than 80% of China’s total electricity comes from this source. It’s clear that improving the technologies involved in this process will be crucial to creating a cleaner and more efficient energy sector.
According to the Five-Year Plan, China will develop three to five coal-based clean technologies, and complete a number of coal-based clean fuel and chemical patents. These initiatives will supposedly help China to become a leader in conversion of coal to liquid and gaseous fuel, which supporters say is cleaner to burn than conventional coal.

But many industry insiders think the plan falls short on detail. “From a long-term perspective, there is still a lot of debate surrounding clean coal, especially over the Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) and polygeneration,” said Ni Weidou, chairman of the China Energy Society. “The plan should include a clear statement on this.” 

This article is translated and published here as part of our Green Growth project, a collaboration between chinadialogue and The Energy Foundation.

Translated by chinadialogue volunteer Esther Bretschneider