BEIJING, Feb 28 (Reuters) - China’s coal consumption last year picked up for the first time since 2013, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday, despite Beijing’s push to promote less-polluting energy sources.
The world’s biggest coal consumer used 0.4 percent more coal in absolute terms in 2017 compared to a year ago, the bureau said in its annual National Social and Economic Development communique, without giving the value of total coal consumption.
However, as a portion of total energy consumption, coal usage fell 1.6 percentage points to 60.4 percent last year, while clean energy, including natural gas and renewables, rose 1.3 percentage points to 20.8 percent from 2016, the communique showed.
That indicates the country remains on track to fulfil its promise to decarbonise its economy and reduce air pollution, as it vowed to cut the coal portion to below 58 percent of total energy consumption by 2020.
Carbon intensity, the level of carbon emissions per unit of economic growth, dropped by 5.1 percent in 2017 compared to a year ago. Total energy consumption rose by 2.9 percent to 4.49 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent which is still below the target of 5 billion tonnes by 2020.
“The slight increase in China’s coal demand thankfully does little to change the overall trend of declining demand in coal’s largest market,” said Harri Lammi, global coal campaigner at environmental group Greenpeace.
“It continues on the path away from reliance on the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel as the energy structure transitions and renewable energy installations soar.”
China had a total of 163.7 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind capacity and 130.3 GW of solar capacity by end 2017, up 10.5 percent and 68.7 percent compare to a year ago, according to data from the National Energy Administration (NEA).
Natural gas and renewables consumption also increased after nearly 4 million households across the northern China were ordered by Beijing to convert from coal to electricity or natural gas in 2017 as part of its air pollution campaign.
Average level of major air pollutants fell significantly in 2017, with concentrations of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns, known as PM2.5 and capable of lodging deep in the lungs, in the smog-prone Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region dropped by 39.6 percent to 64 micrograms per cubic metres compared to five years ago.
China aims to introduce even tougher air quality targets to cover the 2018 to 2020 period and to continue push the conversion of coal to clean energy. (Reporting by Muyu Xu and Josephine Mason; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)
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