China to cap 2017 energy consumption at 4.4 bln tonns coal equivalent

Freight trains are seen loaded with coal at a coal mine company in Huaibei, Anhui province, June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China aims to cap total primary energy consumption at around 4.4 billion tons of coal equivalent in 2017, the director of the National Energy Administration (NEA) said on Wednesday, close to 2016 levels as the country continues a push to use cleaner fuel.

The world’s biggest consumer of energy plans to lift the ratio of natural gas in its energy mix to 6.8 percent next year from 5.9 percent in 2015, Nur Bekri, director of the NEA told a conference in Beijing. He said the goal was to reduce coal consumption to around 60 percent of the total next year from 64 percent in 2015.

His remarks came as China enters the third year of a “war on pollution”, with previous years of blistering energy demand growth putting China’s environment under increasing pressure. The rate of average annual energy demand growth was 6.4 percent in the period 2005-2012.

Total primary energy consumption is expected to have reached 4.36 billion tonnes of coal equivalent in 2016, up 1.4 percent from 2015 - higher than the 0.9 percent growth rate forecast by the NEA earlier this year.

As its economy slows, China has vowed to switch to less energy-intensive industries and make more efficient use of its resources. Bekri said on Wednesday China will aim to raise the ratio of non-fossil fuel consumption in its energy mix to 14.3 percent in 2017, up from an estimated 13.3 percent this year.

The NEA will give priority to upgrading coal-fired power plants, as well as building new gas-burning utilities, Bekri told the conference.

“We have to pay a great deal of attention to overcapacity in coal-fired power plant,” Bekri said, adding the country will continue to crack down on illegal coal mines and strictly control coal output in 2017.

China said in its 2016-2020 five-year plan in March that it would aim to keep total energy consumption below 5 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent by the end of the decade.

It aims to cap coal-fired power capacity at 1,100 gigawatts by the end of 2020, an estimated 55 percent of the country’s total. Coal-fired capacity stood at 960 GW at the end of last year, accounting for about 64 percent of the total.

Reporting by David Stanway and Meng Meng; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell