China's coal production falls for first time this century

Coal Mine China
CC BY 2.0 Wikipedia

First we heard that China's coal consumption may have fallen. Then there were reports that coal imports had declined too, which would of course make sense.

Because the Chinese government would surely prioritize domestic production over imports, it was widely assumed that these developments would primarily spell trouble for coal companies elsewhere, who were relying on the Chinese market to buffer declining consumption at home.

But now, as covered by The Guardian, Chinese state media is reporting that Chinese production is falling too. In fact, Chinese coal production fell 2.1% in 2014, and a further 2.5% reduction is expected in 2015.

This is very big news indeed.

While commentators elsewhere waste thousands of column inches predicting that falling fossil fuel prices will derail the clean energy surge, it looks like China has different plans. As detailed by John Mathews in a post on Cleantechnica, the reason for this is that the Chinese push for clean energy is about much more than the current (volatile) price of fossil fuels.

From cleaning up its air through spurring domestic manufacturing to ensuring long-term price stability and energy security, not to mention living up to its international climate commitments, there are so many factors at play here that any investor looking at the long-term outlook for energy in China is increasingly unlikely to place their bets on coal.

And while we are talking about the economics of energy, let's not forget that Finnish researchers recently used award-winning modeling to show that a near-term shift to solar and wind is not only the cheapest option for China's energy growth, but that that relying primarily or even completely on renewables is perfectly feasible too.

And if this news wasn't enough, here's one more high note to leave you on: the Business Spectator is reporting that China also beat its energy efficiency targets for 2014, achieving a 4.8% cut in energy use per unit of GDP. (The target was 3.9%, and the previous years' cut was 3.7%.)

I would not want to be in the coal business right now.

Tags: China | Coal | Energy Efficiency | Renewable Energy | Solar Power

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