Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Massive floods have stopped production in a major Chinese Coal producing province, likely worsening China’s ongoing energy crisis.
China floods: Nearly 2 million displaced in Shanxi province
Torrential rain last week led to houses collapsing and triggered landslides across more than 70 districts and cities in the province.
Shanxi’s provincial capital Taiyuan saw average rainfall of around 185.6mm last week, compared with 25mm it saw in October between 1981 and 2010.
Shanxi is a major coal producing province and the Chinese government was forced to halt operations at mines and chemical factories as a result of the rain.
China is already facing an energy shortage which has caused power cuts. The government has been limiting electricity usage at ports and factories.
The local government said it has suspended output at 60 coal mines, 372 non-coal mines and 14 dangerous chemical factories in the province.
Operations had already been stopped at 27 other coal mines on 4 October.
Why do I call it a “climate policy driven energy crisis”? Because the original shortfall was created by ill considered top down directives from Chinese President Xi Jinping, in my opinion part of an effort to make China look good at COP26.
What has caused China’s electricity shortages, and is Beijing’s carbon-neutral goal solely to blame?
Sixteen of mainland China’s 31 provincial-level jurisdictions are rationing electricity as they race to meet Beijing’s annual emissions reduction targetsThe price of thermal coal, used for power generation, has been soaring all year and hit new highs in recent weeks
Non-negotiable carbon reduction targets have forced many local provincial governments in China to impose rushed measures such as widespread power cuts, although an urgent shortage of coal has also emerged as a likely reason for the power supply crunch that is sweeping the nation.
China’s power supply crisis ratcheted up a notch over the past week with more than half of the country enduring power cuts, making it one of the most extreme examples of energy rationing in the nation’s history, especially considering the impact it is having on regular households.
Power cuts are commonplace in China and are usually restricted to industrial users, but their frequency has risen since the second half of last year and have now been extended to households.
Last month, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s top economic planning agency, criticised the “energy consumption intensity” of nine provinces – Guangdong, Jiangsu, Yunnan, Fujian, Shaanxi, Guangxi, Ningxia, Qinghai and Xinjiang – for actually increasing their energy use instead of reducing it. Following the warning, the nine provinces stepped up their efforts to cut power, with little impact felt by customers.
“An additional 10 provinces failed to meet their progress targets in the reduction rate of energy consumption intensity, and the situation of national energy saving is very severe,” NDRC spokeswoman Meng Wei said.
“Xi’s dual carbon targets are politically non-negotiable. Accordingly, they have become a catalyst for all manner of policy – certainly including the power generation and consumption controls,” said Cory Combs, an analyst with consultancy firm Trivium China.
Shaanxi is also a major coal user, and presumably a lot of Shaanxi factories have also been flooded out, so I’m not sure whether this additional setback will manifest as lost production or even further reduced coal availability. But either way this latest disaster adds to China’s self inflicted pain.