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Nuclear shortfall in China will boost coal

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World Coal,

China will not meet its target of 200 GW of nuclear capacity by 2030, according to a new report from Wood Mackenzie (WoodMac), leaving coal as the most significant fuel for electricity generation in China for the foreseeable future.

"What is noteworthy about our forecast is that despite environmental measures pushing for a reduction in coal-fired power generation in China, a shortfall in nuclear capacity will create additional opportunities for coal suppliers, on top of coal remaining the dominant source of base-load electricity," said Gavin Thompson, head of Asia Pacific gas and power research for Wood Mackenzie.

WoodMac expects China’s nuclear capacity to grow from 16.4 GW to 175 GW by 2030. While this growth will be “phenomenal”, according to Thompson, it will leave a 200 TWh gap in baseload electricity supply. Coal is expected to provide 125 TWh of this, with natural gas and renewables making up the rest.

“Though natural gas production and imports will significantly increase, it will be insufficient to prevent coal from accounting for 64% of the power generation mix by 2030,” said WoodMac in a press release. While this is down from the 75% share coal achieved in 2013, it still represents a net volume growth. An additional 1% boost to coal’s share in the electricity mix from a nuclear shortfall, translates to further coal demand of 63 million tpa by 2025 and 55 million to by 2030.

The report highlights that although coal’s share will decline from 75% in 2013, due to the rapid growth in natural gas and renewables capacity, coal will still see net volume growth. Additionally, the one percent upside for coal from nuclear not meeting targets will translate to an additional coal demand of 63 million tonnes per year (mmtpa) by 2025 and 55 mmtpa by 2030.

“Our nuclear outlook for China reinforces [our] view that coal will continue to play a dominant role in power generation in the foreseeable future, even with the successful implementation of new environmental measures,” concluded Thompson. “While nuclear will moderate the growth in coal-fired generation, China's coal story is far from over.”

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