What's going on?
Data out on Monday showed that China approved a whole load of new coal plants last year.
What does this mean?
Extreme heat tore through China last summer, with droughts drying up hydropower reservoirs and firing up demand for devices like air conditioning systems. And with the country – the world’s biggest energy importer, by the way – suffering a series of severe power shortages as a result, it turned to its old reliable: coal. In fact, China approved a batch of coal plants in 2022, with a cumulative capacity that equals all of the UK’s combined. The whole shebang was lightning quick, with projects getting permits, financing, and breaking ground within a matter of months. But with China’s ongoing constructions already six times more than the rest of the world’s combined, the country’s climate goals look less tangible than ever.
Why should I care?
Zooming in: Let’s (not) get dirty.
In fairness, China still leads the world in clean energy investments. And with commodity prices swinging from left to right, the incentive to get greener is solid: making energy from wind and water is free, after all, once systems are up and running. So if there’s enough clean power to keep the country going, those coal plants won’t even need to get their hands dirty. But China might have to up its investments to make that happen, especially because some energy-hungry Chinese sectors could soon rebound now the country’s reopened.
The bigger picture: Some serious green.
Europe and the US are doing their bit too: the US’s inflation reduction act will pour up to $369 billion into clean energy programs over the coming decade, and the EU is currently spending over $70 billion in renewable energy subsidies a year. That’s all promising for green firms, and might just be why wind turbine manufacturers said this week that they expect business to go from lemons to lemonade next year.