China's key industries could hit peak coal use by 2024 - govt researcher

Worker walks past coal piles at a coal coking plant in Yuncheng
A worker walks past coal piles at a coal coking plant in Yuncheng, Shanxi province, China January 31, 2018. REUTERS/William Hong/File Photo

BEIJING, Nov 17 (Reuters) - China's major coal consuming industries, including power, steel, cement and coal chemical production, could hit peak use of the dirty fossil fuel around 2024, a government researcher said on Wednesday.

Beijing has pledged to bring its carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and to start phasing down coal use after 2026.

The four industrial sectors made up more than 86% of total coal consumption and more than 70% of total carbon emissions in China, the world's biggest coal user and greenhouse gas emitter.

Coal use in those four sectors could peak at 2.48 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent, said Cao Dong, principal expert from Chinese Academy of Environment Planning, a research institute affiliated to China's environment ministry, at a seminar.

"Coal use at steel and cement sectors should have reached a peak (in 2020 and 2021), followed by coal chemicals by around 2024," Cao said.

The power sector, however, would only hit peak coal consumption by around 2028 due to growing electricity demand and concerns over energy safety, Cao said, adding that carbon emissions would hit a high one year after coal use peaks.

More than 60% of China's electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, and a shortage of coal this year has caused widespread power outages.

Cao also estimated a total of 24.1 trillion yuan ($3.77 trillion) of investment would be needed to control coal consumption at the four industries by 2035.

However, the transition could generate annual gross domestic product of 159.5 billion yuan from sectors such as renewables and equipment manufacturing .

Declining use of coal at key industries would reduce exports by an average of around 1.03 trillion yuan per annum by 2035 and further limit demand for raw materials such as iron ore and limestone.

Iron ore imports already dropped 4% in the first 10 months of 2021 as Beijing limited steel output amid pressure to reduce emissions.

($1 = 6.3858 yuan)

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Shivani Singh; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.