Aleksandra Tomczak, World Coal Association, discusses the key role coal will continue to play in Asia in 2014 and beyond.
China: coal continues as the key source of energy
New regulations and policy initiatives in China in 2014 can be expected to reflect the priorities set in China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, including “higher quality growth”, which includes a stronger focus on environmental protection, climate, and energy efficiency. However, despite stricter environmental standards, China’s coal demand is expected to increase by almost 20% over the next five years.
By the end of 2014, China is expected to finalise all of the seven pilot emission trading schemes it announced in 2011. Once finalised, China’s emissions trading schemes will cover about 7% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions in Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing, as well as in the Guangdong and Hubei Provinces. At the moment, allowances are allocated for free and cover 10 different industries, including coal-consuming plants. Under the trading programme, companies that produce more than their allocated share of free emission allowances have to buy additional allowances from the market. As of January 2014, carbon prices in China ranged from 51 RMB (US$8.3) in Beijing, to 26 RMB (US$4.2) in Tianjin and 31 RMB (US$5.0) in Shanghai.
2014 will also see new clean air targets. Early this year Zhou Shengxian, minister of environmental protection, announced that the 2014 reduction target for nitrogen oxides will be set at 5%, a level much more aggressive than in previous years, according to media reports. Zhou also announced a separate national emission reduction target of 2% for the other major pollutants, such as SOx
Despite new regulatory initiatives, China’s annual thermal coal consumption is projected to grow from 2277 million tce in 2012 to 2669 million tce in 2018, a 17% increase. The IEA also points to potential coal demand growth coming from coal conversion projects: a “sleeping giant” of Chinese coal demand. In fact, with about 325 million tce of planned coal-to-gas, coal-to-liquids, and coal-to-chemicals projects, coal conversion could be a source of huge coal demand growth in the future.
Energy affordability and security: Japan and Southeast Asia
Elsewhere in Asia, affordability and security of energy supply top the energy policy priorities for Southeast Asian governments, according to a special report on the region published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) last year. This means that policy and investment decisions to be taken over the coming years will result in a spectacular growth in coal-fired power plant generation capacity – from 25 GW today to 160 GW in 2035. These capacity additions will increase regional demand for coal by 300%, according to the IEA report. Most of the new coal-fired power plants are expected to be built in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines; in these countries thermal coal demand will grow by 113 million tce until 2018, with 7.3% average growth per year.
Energy security is also a key concern for Japan. This year Japan will review its basic plan for energy, which will define the role of various energy fuels and technologies in the country’s long- term energy mix. As of January 2014, all 48 nuclear reactors in Japan were still shut down, among which 16 were being examined for potential reopening. “The current generation capacity available is insufficient to meet the expected maxi- mum demand of electricity during peak season,” says Shintaro Yokowawa, deputy general manager at the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan. He has argued that coal and clean coal technologies will have to play an important role in the new document, delivering an affordable and secure energy mix in Japan.
This is an edited extract of an article that first appeared as TOMCZAK, A., “What to watch in 2014: Policy developments that will shape the coal industry”, Cornerstone (Spring 2014), pp. 19 – 25. Cornerstone is the official journal of the World Coal Association.
Edited by Jonathan Rowland