Guest essay by Larry Hamlin
The September 17, 2023 edition of the L A Times published the latest China Watch section (shown below) which highlights a large Solar PV project in Chongqing where a 37 MW facility on the rooftop of a large car manufacturing company went into operation in April of this year.
This large PV project is touted as being able to save 264,500 short tons of coal use over its planned 25-year life.
Energy Institute data shows that China’s coal energy use increased by about 1% between 2021 and 2022 representing a growth in coal consumption from 4.68 billion short tons in 2021 to about 4.73 billion short tons in 2022 with further growth expected to occur through at least year 2030.
In year 2018 China consumed about 4.38 billion short tons of coal which has now increased during the 5-year period through 2022 by about 350 million short tons according to EIA and Energy Institute data.
The 25 year expected savings in coal consumption of this PV project represents about 0.5% of the yearly coal use increase that occurred between 2021 and 2022 and about 0.075% of the 5-year increase in coal use that occurred between 2018 and 2022.
Stated another way it would take about 200 PV projects like this each operating for 25 years to save an amount of coal equivalent to the yearly increase of China’s coal use just between 2021 and 2022.
Given the continuing growth of China’s huge coal use that has occurred over the last 5 years it is abundantly clear China will continue to depend and rely upon coal as its primary energy resource for the foreseeable future.