Zhejiang province in eastern China starts importing coal from Kazakhstan
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The eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, in the grip of an energy crisis, has begun importing coal from Kazakhstan, Reuters news agency reported, quoting Chinese media.

The purchase of the shipment of 136,000 tonnes was initiated by the Zhejiang Energy group – backed by the provincial government. The group also bought a total of 130,000 tonnes of U.S. thermal coal in June and July.

As a result, according to international trade data from UNCTADstat, in the first quarter of 2021, shipments of thermal coal from Australia to China shrank to zero (more recent indicators are unavailable) – compared to volumes of 42.5 million tonnes in 2020 and 45.9 million tonnes in 2019. This quickly hit prices — thermal coal stood at more than $100 a tonne in March and climbed to nearly $150 a tonne at the end of September at the port of Qinhuangdao, Bloomberg reported.

Throughout the period of 2011 to 2020, the share of coal In China’s electricity generating balance dropped from 78 % to 63%, according to data from the BP Statistical Review. This reduction was linked in part to a rise in capacities for renewable energy sources — from 2011 to 2020, the installed capacity of wind power stations in China rose sixfold (from 46.4 GW to 282 GW), and solar energy capacity increased by a factor of more than 80 (from 3.1 GW to 254.4 GW), according to calculations by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

But coal-fired generation remains a critical factor in China – by 2021, the installed capacity of coal-fired stations (1.047 GW according to data from the Global Energy Monitor – GEM), exceeded capacities of renewable sources by more than 15 % — and that includes hydro power (894.9 GW, according to IRENA).

And what is more, in 2020, China brought on stream 38.4 GW of new coal-fired capacity (GEM put the world-wide increase in capacity at 50.3 GW). And new capacity under construction in China in 2020 stood at 246.9 GW.
By way of comparison: in the United States from 2013-2016, a total of 48.9 GW in coal-fired capacity was taken off the grid and in 202020 that figure stood at 52.4 GW. And in years to come, demand for coal is almost certain to climb in China.

Prospects for world coal markets and coal-fired power generation will be discussed at a panel discussion during the Russian Energy Week: “The future of coal energy in the era of the climate campaign: The end or a new beginning?”. Global Energy Prize laureate Zinfer Ismagilov will present a special report.

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