2020: Greening trends within China's energy system

The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan FocusVolume 18 | Issue 17 | Number 3 | Article ID 5463 | Sep 01, 20201


Greening trends within China's energy system: A 2019 update

John A. Mathews, Carol X. Huang



There is widespread concern overthe scale of China’s consumption of fossil fuels,and particularly over recent increases in coalburning in the electric power sector.Nevertheless it is a fact that China is greeningits power sector more than blackening it. Wepresent updated evidence that China’s electricpower system has been greening – in terms ofcapacity added from renewable (WWS) sources,growth in electricity generated from WWSsources, and investment in new generationinfrastructure. We present the results for thegreen renewable sector (WWS), the black fossilfuel sector (thermal) and the nuclear sector(growing, but not nearly as fast as WWS). Thisevidence reveals that China’s extremedependence on coal and other fossil fuels ismoderating, as it ramps up alternatives –particularly the generation of domestic powerfrom renewable sources based on water, windand sun (WWS). In short, China’s energysystem is diversifying: it is greening within alarge and growing carbon-intensive existingsystem. At the same time, China has steadilyincreased levels of coal burning in the past twoto three years – even while the green trend indomestic power generation has continued.China’s level of fossil fuel investments abroad(particularly through the Belt and RoadInitiative) remain a source of concern. Chinacontinues to send disconcertingly mixedmessages on the energy front.


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