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The Energy Agenda

The Chinese impact on the energy transition

In the latest episode of ONS Energy Talks, Dr. Michal Meidan, Head of China Energy Research at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, discusses China's pivotal role in the global energy transition. Despite Western focus on Europe and the US, Dr. Meidan emphasises the importance of considering China, a significant player in the energy landscape.

Published:  
June 13, 2024

Highlights

  • China's Commitment to Energy Transition: China is dedicated to the energy transition due to industrial opportunities, energy security, and diplomatic benefits.
  • Coal vs. Renewables: Despite leading in renewable energy, China continues to heavily rely on coal for energy security.
  • Global Collaboration and Competition: China's role in the global energy transition involves both collaboration and competition, especially with Western countries and within Asia.

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China's Commitment to Energy Transition

Dr. Meidan, who has over 20 years of experience working in and around China, shared her insights on China's multifaceted approach to energy transition.

“China is committed to the energy transition for a variety of reasons,” she explained, noting that industrial competitiveness, energy security, and diplomatic benefits all play a role.

She highlighted China's leadership in future industries such as electric vehicles, batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines.

Balancing Coal and Renewables

However, Dr. Meidan acknowledged the complexities of China's energy strategy, particularly its continued reliance on coal.

“There has been an increase in coal production and coal consumption in China,” she noted, attributing this to energy security concerns.

The Chinese government has even implemented policies to maintain coal reserves equivalent to 15% of annual production, ensuring flexibility and resilience in the system.

China's dual approach of expanding renewable energy while maintaining coal reserves presents a unique challenge. “There are no climate deniers in the Chinese leadership,” Dr. Meidan pointed out, underscoring China's recognition of the real and present climate risks. Yet, the transition cannot jeopardise short-term economic stability or energy security.

Global Collaboration and Competition

On the global stage, China's energy transition efforts are influenced by both competition and collaboration. Western corporate attitudes and policies, such as carbon tariffs, are pushing Chinese industries to adapt to a carbon-conscious world. However, Dr. Meidan also highlighted the importance of nuanced perspectives, recognising the diverse strategies and agencies of countries in Africa and Latin America in their dealings with China.

“Any company that operates in this space knows that you have to work with Chinese companies,” Dr. Meidan said, emphasising the intertwined nature of global energy supply chains.

She called for a balanced approach, recognising the complexities and trade-offs between policy priorities and corporate objectives.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, Dr. Meidan remains cautiously optimistic about finding common ground for global energy collaboration, despite the current geopolitical tensions. She advocates for open-mindedness and a focus on learning and adapting policies to ensure a successful energy transition.

As the ONS 2024 in Stavanger approaches, discussions on China's role in the global energy landscape will continue to be a critical part of the agenda. The ONS Energy Agenda Report, featuring contributions from Dr. Meidan, promises to provide further insights into these complex issues.

Further Reading - Energy Agenda vol. 2

For those interested in a deeper dive into the numbers and analysis, the Energy Agenda vol. 2 is available for pre-order on the ONS website. Dr. Meidan's chapter offers valuable perspectives on the intricate dynamics of China's energy policies and their global implications.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

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Highlights

  • China's Commitment to Energy Transition: China is dedicated to the energy transition due to industrial opportunities, energy security, and diplomatic benefits.
  • Coal vs. Renewables: Despite leading in renewable energy, China continues to heavily rely on coal for energy security.
  • Global Collaboration and Competition: China's role in the global energy transition involves both collaboration and competition, especially with Western countries and within Asia.

China's Commitment to Energy Transition

Dr. Meidan, who has over 20 years of experience working in and around China, shared her insights on China's multifaceted approach to energy transition.

“China is committed to the energy transition for a variety of reasons,” she explained, noting that industrial competitiveness, energy security, and diplomatic benefits all play a role.

She highlighted China's leadership in future industries such as electric vehicles, batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines.

Balancing Coal and Renewables

However, Dr. Meidan acknowledged the complexities of China's energy strategy, particularly its continued reliance on coal.

“There has been an increase in coal production and coal consumption in China,” she noted, attributing this to energy security concerns.

The Chinese government has even implemented policies to maintain coal reserves equivalent to 15% of annual production, ensuring flexibility and resilience in the system.

China's dual approach of expanding renewable energy while maintaining coal reserves presents a unique challenge. “There are no climate deniers in the Chinese leadership,” Dr. Meidan pointed out, underscoring China's recognition of the real and present climate risks. Yet, the transition cannot jeopardise short-term economic stability or energy security.

Global Collaboration and Competition

On the global stage, China's energy transition efforts are influenced by both competition and collaboration. Western corporate attitudes and policies, such as carbon tariffs, are pushing Chinese industries to adapt to a carbon-conscious world. However, Dr. Meidan also highlighted the importance of nuanced perspectives, recognising the diverse strategies and agencies of countries in Africa and Latin America in their dealings with China.

“Any company that operates in this space knows that you have to work with Chinese companies,” Dr. Meidan said, emphasising the intertwined nature of global energy supply chains.

She called for a balanced approach, recognising the complexities and trade-offs between policy priorities and corporate objectives.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, Dr. Meidan remains cautiously optimistic about finding common ground for global energy collaboration, despite the current geopolitical tensions. She advocates for open-mindedness and a focus on learning and adapting policies to ensure a successful energy transition.

As the ONS 2024 in Stavanger approaches, discussions on China's role in the global energy landscape will continue to be a critical part of the agenda. The ONS Energy Agenda Report, featuring contributions from Dr. Meidan, promises to provide further insights into these complex issues.

Further Reading - Energy Agenda vol. 2

For those interested in a deeper dive into the numbers and analysis, the Energy Agenda vol. 2 is available for pre-order on the ONS website. Dr. Meidan's chapter offers valuable perspectives on the intricate dynamics of China's energy policies and their global implications.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

FLERE SAKER
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