A recent report from the activist group CoalSwarm included satellite imagery that shows many coal-fired power projects that were halted by the Chinese government have quietly been restarted. In total, 46.7 gigawatts (GW) of new and restarted coal-fired power construction are either generating power or will soon be operational. If all the plants reach completion, they alone would increase China’s coal-fired power capacity by 4%.
Abroad, it is the same story. By the end of 2016, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, China is involved in 240 coal-fired power projects in 25 BRI countries with a total installed capacity of 251 GW,27 making it the most important global player in the development of coal-fired power projects.
Over the past year, demand for energy is up substantially, as high as 15% in the case of natural gas. Given the overwhelming need to boost economic growth, climate change issues are largely absent from official action: Chinese authorities are focused on securing these energy supplies.
Many of China’s initiatives, including much of its ‘Belt and Road’ (BRI) development initiative are focused on serving the country’s need for energy, through the building of pipelines, power facilities and ports in more than 70 countries. In particular it focuses on:
• securing natural gas and oil supplies:
– imports through pipelines from Myanmar and Turkmenistan
– planned imports via the nearly completed Russian ‘Power of Siberia’10 project
and a proposed ‘Power of Siberia 2’ pipeline
– from the Middle East, via pipelines through Gwadar, Pakistan to Kashgar, China
• securing LNG supplies from as far away as Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Qatar, the United States and Canada, as well as from Russia’s Yamal project13 along a Polar Silk Road.
• securing oil supplies from Oman, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Angola, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Congo, South Sudan, Brazil, Venezuela, and Canada.