China: no more coal power plants

There you have it – China will not build any more coal-fired power stations abroad.

This is indeed significant since China builds/finances the majority of new coal projects in developing countries, particularly in Asia. Instead, it will:

….. step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low carbon energy.

No word yet about China’s own plants. Dozens of new coal-fired power and steel plants in China announced during the first half of 2021, if built, would alone add 150m tonnes in annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to research group, Global Energy Monitor. 

In May, the IEA said no new coal facilities should be developed if the world is to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. However, the G20 meeting in July was unable to agree on phasing out coal power and overseas coal financing. 

Today’s announcement is an unexpected but welcome turnaround for China.

According to the Beijing-based International Institute of Green Finance, about $160bn of China-backed coal-fired power plants were planned outside China between 2014 and 2020. However, more than $88bn worth of those have been either shelved or canceled, and only one of the 52 projects announced since 2014 had gone into operation. 

In all probability, these are economic decisions as much as anything. Wind and solar power costs are already very competitive and likely to come down further. China is still reliant on coal domestically but, according to Greenpeace research, coal-fired power plant approvals in 2021 are down by around 80% on previous years.

There’s a message here for Australia. New coal mines are not needed. China will stop buying coal from Australia.

China has more solar energy capacity than any other country in the world, at a gargantuan 130 gigawatts. China already produces three-quarters of the world’s solar PV panels, albeit with some coal-fired power, for now. 

How many missed opportunities?

In 1989, a young engineering graduate named Shi Zhengrong moved to Sydney from Shanghai, as a foreign exchange scholar. His research and Australia’s technical expertise delivered world-leading efficiencies in PV manufacture. He returned to China which had no PV manufacturing and set up Suntech. Now he is a billionaire and China has over 260 PV manufacturers. Australia now has only one – a small company in Adelaide – Tindo Solar – which imports all its components. 

About 90 percent of solar panels being manufactured around the world today contain the technology developed at UNSW

The US now produces just 1% of the PV panels it installs, down from 22% 20 years ago.

China is leading the world on EVs too

It has hundreds of companies building electric vehicles and installed 800,000 public chargers. Unlike Australia, China has a plan – manufacturing hubs, a combination of tax incentives, land grants, low-interest loans, and other subsidies. China has been the world’s biggest producer of electric vehicles for six years running.

For all the talk about technology and jobs of the future, Australia is being left behind because our government is too stupid to see what’s going on. 

The PM would rather waste and spend untold $billions on nuclear submarines, risk the ire of China, France, and the EU to bask in the glow of US President Biden who could not even recall his name. 

The emperor truly has no clothes.

Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

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