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  • Rovindu Ambagolla

World Politics >>> China’s Nationwide Power Struggle and Its Implications to Sustainable Development


Picture Credits: Denny Franzkowiak


China has recently been hit with power shortages which has left thousands of homes and factories without power. Like the energy price hike in Europe, part of China's inability to supply its population with energy currently stems from the increase of economic activity after the easing of Covid lockdowns, which has boosted demand.


China has also been struggling with a coal shortage. China is primarily powered by coal-based producers, with them making up almost 70% of its energy sector. However, President Xi Jinping’s ambitious goals of making China carbon neutral by 2060 means that development of more coal-based energy power plants and coal mining is slowly declining. China’s coal production has increased by 6% this year, but the power output has increased by almost 14%, leading to a decline in coal inventories.


The Chinese government has asked coal mines to dig more, however the existing mines must adhere to a barrage of new environmental and safety standards and rules in the workplace. This along with the fact that some financial institutions and investors are not funding these coal mines anymore because of national and international targets to reduce their use, means that they were not able to meet the national demand.


Picture Credit: Dominik Vanyi


Alternatively, China has also been a big importer of coal for their power stations. Their primary trade partner for coal used to be Australia. Now however, they have ceased trading due to bitter political disputes and territorial clashes, leading to shortages in China. It doesn’t look like the tension between these two states will de-escalate anytime soon. Just last week a pact was signed between the US, UK and Australia to grant them access to nuclear submarines. This alliance was largely interpreted to counter Chinas aggressive naval activity in the Indo-Pacific region.


Alternatives to fossil fuel-based energy sources like renewable power are being used as well to try and fill the gaps, however the infrastructure still needs much more development to match the energy needs of the entire population. Currently the goal is still to try and get 20% of China to be run on renewables by 2025. However even existing renewable energy infrastructure has underperformed this year, due to the late start of the rainy season reducing Chinas hydropower output and a sudden reduction in supplies from wind farms.


All these factors combined has forced China’s energy distributers to ration the supply of energy and prioritise urban areas in peak hours. This has affected millions of producers in China. Even though most of China is undergoing an energy crisis, the government remains stubborn on their initiatives to further develop sustainable energy instead of falling back on fossil fuels.


September 30th 2021 | 2:05 PM

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