At the same time as China renewables grow, the absolute amount of China coal fired generation will continue to skyrocket. According to Bloomberg, 343-450 Gigawatts of new coal generation will be built in China over the next fifteen years, more than the total capacity of the entire current US coal fleet, which is roughly 300 Gigawatts. Put another way, even in the Bloomberg best case, with the most aggressive solar and wind investments in the world, China will continue to bring on line roughly an average of one large 500 MW coal plant per week through 2030. This is on top of China’s existing 750 GW coal fleet, already more than twice the size of America’s.
This is to over double the absolute usage of natural gas to 420-450 billion cubic meters per year. This is from 170 Bcm/year in 2013, China would have to find another 250 Bcm/year of supply in just six years.
China’s 2012 energy mix comprised 68 percent coal, 18 percent oil and only 5 percent natural gas, compared to 20 percent coal, compared to 37 percent oil and 30 percent natural gas for the United States. China’s efforts are to raise natural gas to 10% of the energy mix of an increased energy demand.
A South China Morning Post reports on a study that estimated that economic losses caused by pollution in 2010 came in at 1.1 trillion yuan (almost $200 billion), more than double the total from 2004. The research does not calculate the health costs associated with pollution, but they would push the economic losses even higher.
General Electric stated in a white paper that China could save $820 billion in environmental costs by 2025 by doubling its current natural gas consumption at the expense of coal.