China coal-fired power capacity on the rise

China coal-fired power capacity on the rise
To cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions to meet global demand, China has promised an ‘energy revolution’ aimed at reducing its reliance on coal. (AFP)
Updated 21 November 2019

China coal-fired power capacity on the rise

China coal-fired power capacity on the rise
  • 40 new coal mines approved in the first three quarters of 2019

SHANGHAI: China raised its coal-fired power capacity by 42.9 gigawatts (GW), or about 4.5 percent, in the 18 months to June, connecting new projects to the grid at a time when capacity in the rest of the world shrank, according to a study published on Wednesday.

China also has another 121.3 GW of coal-fired power plants under construction, US-based research network Global Energy Monitor said in its report, nearly enough to power the whole of France.

The increase followed a 2014-2016 “permitting surge” by local governments aiming to boost growth while formerly suspended projects have also been restarted, Global Energy Monitor said. In the rest of the world, coal-fired power capacity fell 8.1 GW over the same period.

To cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, China has promised an “energy revolution” aimed at dramatically reducing its reliance on coal. It cut coal’s share of the country’s total energy from 68 percent in 2012 to 59 percent last year, and researchers predict it will fall to 55.3 percent by 2020.

Absolute coal consumption, however, has continued to increase in line with a rise in overall Chinese energy demand.

Environmental groups have accused Beijing of relaxing its efforts on coal, pointing to remarks in October by Premier Li Keqiang, who urged China to make greater use of its coal “endowment” by building clean power plants.

China approved 40 new coal mines in the first three quarters of 2019, and it has continued to make use of “green” financing to support coal-related projects.

China’s total coal-fired power capacity stands at more than 1,000 GW. Global Energy Monitor said it needed to close more than 40 percent of that to meet greenhouse gas reductions.

It urged the government to strengthen policies discouraging coal plants, support low-carbon power and move toward clean energy, while an investor body warned of the risk of building new coal-fired plants.

“Over 40 percent of China’s existing coal fleet is already estimated to be loss making,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change.

Though costs are now as low as fossil fuels, some Chinese policymakers worry renewables like wind and solar are unreliable, and there are concerns that decarbonisation will hurt the country’s coal regions.

Some also believe that future energy shortages could hurt China’s attempts to address its slowing economy, said Yang Fuqiang, senior adviser with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a US environment group.

“Right now there is a big argument about whether China needs more coal-fired power or not,” he told Reuters. “They think the 14th five-year plan (2021-2025) will stimulate economic development and they are a little afraid there won’t be enough electricity to support the economy.”


Remittances from KSA surge as expats help families in lockdown

Updated 1 min 6 sec ago

Remittances from KSA surge as expats help families in lockdown

Remittances from KSA surge as expats help families in lockdown
  • Foreign workers defy World Bank forecasts by sending home $32.9bn in first 10 months of year, an 18.58% rise on 2019

RIYADH: Expats in Saudi Arabia sent SR123.4 billion ($32.9 billion) in remittances to their home countries in the first 10 months of this year, a rise of 18.58 percent compared with 2019.

The surge in payments came as foreign workers in the Kingdom looked to support their families during the coronavirus pandemic.

The growth is despite forecasts from the World Bank in April estimating that remittances to low- and middle-income countries would decline by 19.6 percent in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region this year as workers struggled to cope with the impact of the global health crisis.

Expat workers make up three-quarters of the 13.6 million workers in the Kingdom, with most coming from countries such as Syria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

Figures from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) showed that while remittances by expats in the Kingdom rose by 18.58 percent year-on-year between January and October, the biggest spike was in June when the monthly amount surged 60 percent compared with June 2019.

July also witnessed a rise of 32 percent, while August, September, and October saw monthly levels increase 24.7 percent, 28.5 percent, and 19.2 percent, respectively, compared with the equivalent months last year.

Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Riyadh-based financial services company Al Rajhi Capital, told Arab News: “Debt to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio in emerging economies has increased up to 70 percent recently, and the unemployment rate led by COVID-19 has also increased in countries such as India and the Philippines, which are the countries forming the majority of the expat population in the Kingdom.

“Therefore, we believe that increased remittances are due to rising unemployment and difficult economic conditions back in the home countries of expats.”

He said another reason why expats may have been sending more funds home was because their surplus income had increased as a result of being unable to travel or spend as much as normal due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Once the unemployment risks recede for expats in KSA, as well as in home countries, this level should normalize in our view,” Al-Sudairi added.

While the expats’ remittances increased in the 10-month period, the relative amount sent abroad by Saudi nationals declined by 17.5 percent to $12.58 billion during the same period, compared with $10.38 billion between January and October 2019.

Coronavirus travel restrictions were introduced in the Kingdom in March, leading to a 41.7 percent drop in funds transferred overseas by Saudi nationals in April compared with the same month last year. While domestic travel resumed in late May, funds sent overseas by Saudi nationals still fell 52 percent that month compared with May 2019.

Remittances briefly spiked by 17 percent in June, before reducing to declines again for the remainder of the year.

Al-Sudairi said that the drop in Saudis forwarding money out of the country was also due to the pandemic and travel restrictions.

“This affected tourism and medical treatment-related remittances. Even the business-related remittances were impacted in the earlier months of lockdown due to negative confidence.”

He added that he was “expecting the trend to be better next year” once international travel resumed.

The World Bank, despite its pessimistic outline in April, also predicted that remittances would recover in 2021 and rise by 5.6 percent globally and 1.6 percent in the MENA region.

In a statement issued in April, Michal Rutkowski, global director of the World Bank’s social protection and jobs global practice, said: “Effective social protection systems are crucial to safeguarding the poor and vulnerable during this crisis in both developing countries as well as advanced countries.

“In host countries, social protection interventions should also support migrant populations,” he added.