China’s solar is now at twice the capacity of its coal power – report

Solar is growing at 33.7% year-on-year and is now at twice the capacity of coal power in China, according to a new report.

Solar and coal in China

Today, the China Electricity Council, a state-approved nonprofit national trade association, released its first-quarter report, the “Operational Situation of [the] Electric Power Industry.”

As of the end of March, according to the report, China’s installed power generation capacity was 2.62 billion kilowatts, a year-on-year increase of 9.1%. Every category of fuel – that is, both renewables and fossil fuels – saw year-on-year installed capacity increases.

Overall, the installed generation capacity of non-fossil-fuel energy power generation was 1.33 billion kilowatts, a year-on-year increase of 15.9%, accounting for 50.5% of the total installed capacity, and the proportion increased by 3 percentage points year-on-year.

On the fossil fuel front, coal-fired power generation in Q1 was 1.13 billion kilowatts, a year-on-year increase of 1.8%, and gas-fired power generation was 120 million kilowatts, a year-on-year increase of 7.4%.

But solar power generation was 430 million kilowatts – of which, photovoltaic power generation and solar thermal power generation were 42,522 and 670,000 kilowatts, respectively – a year-on-year increase of 33.7%.

So according to the China Electricity Council, as of Q1, that brings the installed capacity of coal-fired power generation in China to 1.13 billion kilowatts – and the installed capacity of grid-connected solar power to 2.6 billion kilowatts.

Electrek’s Take

There’s a little bit more to this story.

China has experienced low rainfall in the south of the country since the middle of last year, causing a drought – which, in turn, is negatively impacting hydroelectric power because reservoirs and rivers are depleted. That’s why the report states that hydro shrunk -8.3% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023.

So while renewable growth is indeed experiencing a rapid rise in China, and the Chinese government is taking steps to address climate change, it’s also giving coal a boost to meet energy needs in the short term, to try to make up for the hydro problem.

As Reuters notes, China’s government has “encouraged coal miners to maximize production and coal-fired generators to stockpile fuel.

“Coal mine production increased by +98 million tonnes (+5.4%) to a record 1,912 million tonnes in the first five months of 2023, roughly in line with the rise in thermal generation (+6.6%).”

Read more: Chinese solar firm to open a US factory – a manufacturing win for Biden

Photo: China News Service

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