China issues energy action plan to tackle smog by using less coal

State Council wants to see increased exploration for oil and natural gas, more nuclear plants built and renewable energy sources expanded

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 November, 2014, 4:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 4:44pm

The State Council fleshed out its plans for energy use yesterday, with a commitment to cap annual coal consumption at 4.2 billion tonnes in seven years. It was 3.61 billion tonnes last year.

In a detailed action plan for the nation's energy development, the State Council also pledged to boost exploration for oil and natural gas, build more nuclear plants and expand renewable energy sources.

The plan would require annual growth in energy consumption to be no more than 3.5 per cent for the next six years. The document also said the share of non-fossil fuels in the energy mix would increase to 15 per cent by 2020 from 9.8 per cent last year.

The commitments come as Beijing faces mounting public and international calls to curb air pollution, which is largely caused by burning coal, and to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Lin Boqiang , director of Xiamen University's China Centre for China Energy Economics Research, said the targets would be incorporated into the 13th five-year plan for 2016-2020.

"The smog crisis has forced China's government to change its views on the country's energy structure in the past several years. That's why they want to release this blueprint now - to smooth out the transition between its 12th and 13th five-year plans," Lin said.

Li Shuo , a researcher on climate and coal policy for Greenpeace East Asia, said the blueprint should have set tougher limits on coal use, which accounted for two-thirds of energy consumption last year.

"The figures just don't add up. Oil will only be around 13 per cent of the total energy mix by 2020, while the ratio is about 18 per cent now. That leaves a lot of space for China to further reduce reliance on coal," Li said.

The action plan set out five key tasks, one being the development of new and existing oilfields in nine regions where there are large proven reserves - including in northwestern, central and northeastern provinces, and offshore fields in the Bohai Gulf and the East and South China seas.

The plan also advocates encouraging bids from foreign companies to tender for deep-sea offshore projects, and for greater research and development of deep-sea oil discovery technology and related equipment.

In addition it calls for more nuclear plants to be built along the eastern coastal area "at a suitable time" while also studying the feasibility of inland nuclear plants.

China will expand international cooperation in energy, establish regional markets and take part in global energy governance. The fifth goal is to promote innovation in energy-related technology.

The State Council document was dated June 7, but it was only released to the public yesterday.

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