Greening trends within China's energy system: A 2019 update

John A. Mathews*, Carol X. Huang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


There is widespread concern over the scale of China's consumption of fossil fuels, and particularly over recent increases in coal burning in the electric power sector. Nevertheless it is a fact that China is greening its power sector more than blackening it. We present updated evidence that China's electric power system has been greening - in terms of capacity added from renewable (WWS) sources, growth in electricity generated from WWS sources, and investment in new generation infrastructure. We present the results for the green renewable sector (WWS), the black fossil fuel sector (thermal) and the nuclear sector (growing, but not nearly as fast as WWS). This evidence reveals that China's extreme dependence on coal and other fossil fuels is moderating, as it ramps up alternatives particularly the generation of domestic power from renewable sources based on water, wind and sun (WWS). In short, China's energy system is diversifying: it is greening within a large and growing carbon-intensive existing system. At the same time, China has steadily increased levels of coal burning in the past two to three years - even while the green trend in domestic power generation has continued. China's level of fossil fuel investments abroad (particularly through the Belt and Road Initiative) remain a source of concern. China continues to send disconcertingly mixed messages on the energy front.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5463
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalThe Asia-Pacific journal : Japan focus
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


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