Has coal use peaked in China: Near-term trends in China's coal consumption

Publication Type

Journal Article

Date Published



Coal combustion to power China's factories, generate electricity, and heat buildings has increased continually since Chinese energy use statistics were first published in 1981. From 2013 until 2015, however, this trend reversed and coal use declined from 2810 million metric tons of coal equivalent (Mtce) to 2752 Mtce, leading to a levelling off of China's overall CO2 emissions. Some analysts have declared that China's coal consumption may have peaked. Preliminary data, however, indicate that coal consumption increased in 2017. To understand future near-term trends in China's coal consumption, we analyze a number of important drivers of coal use and find projected increases in electricity demand that cannot be met by other fossil-fuel or non-fossil-fuel electricity sources, as well as projected increases in coal use in light manufacturing, other non-industrial sectors, and for transformation. We find that these projected increases will lead to near-term growth in China's coal use to levels of approximately 2900 Mtce to 3050 Mtce in 2020, with associated increases in energy-related CO2 emissions.


Energy Policy



Year of Publication



208 - 214



Short Title

Energy Policy