Thursday, December 24, 2020

GWPF Newsletter: Tens of millions in China facing winter power blackouts


Mass blackouts after China cuts Australian coal imports

In this newsletter:

1) Tens of millions in China facing winter power blackouts, rationing
AFP, 22 December 2020
2) Mass blackouts after China cuts Australian coal imports
The Times, 17 December 2020

3) Global coal demand to rebound as economy recovers
Bloomberg, 18 December 2020

4) Rupert Darwall: China’s green NGO climate propaganda enablers
Real Clear Energy, 21 December 2020
5) Walter Russell Mead: Beijing’s Collision With Christians
The Wall Street Journal, 21 December 2020
6) Electricity costs too high to make heat pumps worthwhile, MPs warn
The Daily Telegraph, 21 December 2020
7) 600,000 Britons have fallen into fuel poverty during Covid pandemic
The Big Issue, 20 December 2020
8) And Finally: Europe's wind and e-car industry dependent on China's magnetic metals 
Clean Energy Wire, 22 December 2020

Full details:

1) Tens of millions in China facing winter power blackouts, rationing
AFP, 22 December 2020
BEIJING: Tens of millions across China are facing power shortages in below-freezing winter temperatures, as three provinces impose curbs on electricity use due to surging demand and a squeezed coal supply.

Residents, factories and businesses in Hunan, Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces have been ordered to ration electricity with some areas citing a shortfall in coal supplies, according to local media reports and government notices.
China’s rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic has been driven by energy intensive industries such as construction, heaping pressure on the power grid and coal supplies, said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
Earlier this month, Hunan authorities ordered all billboards and outdoor lighting on buildings to power off for long periods each day and a temperature cap on indoor heating at entertainment venues.
Hunan faces a shortfall of 3-4 million kilowatts of electricity this winter, local officials admitted last week, as demand soars due to unusually cold weather that will hit as low as -10°C.
Office workers in provincial capital Changsha complained on social media about being forced to climb dozens of flights of stairs and freezing indoor temperatures as a result of frequent power outages.
“My office heating has already been stopped, and there were blackouts on Dec 1, 3 and 5. Temperatures will drop to -8°C around New Year’s Day, will I freeze to death in Hunan?” one Weibo user wrote last week.
Meanwhile in Zhejiang province, factories in the manufacturing hub of Yiwu have been told to stop operations and streetlights have been turned off at night as part of an emissions-saving drive by the local government, according to media reports and photos circulated on Weibo.
Full story
2) Mass blackouts after China cuts Australian coal imports
The Times, 17 December 2020

China is suffering mass power cuts in the south, prompting cities to dim street lights, suspend factory production and tell office blocks to turn off heating unless the temperature falls below 3C.

The electricity crisis appears to have been prompted by a shortage of coal after Beijing banned imports from Australia. China imposed trade bans against Australia after Canberra demanded an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus and criticised Beijing’s treatment of the people of Hong Kong.

In another sign of Beijing’s dependence on Australian raw materials, the China Iron and Steel Association told Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian iron ore supplier, yesterday that the rising price of the commodity was unreasonable. It has almost doubled this year.
The association has demanded a new pricing system and questioned whether Australian miners have deliberately restricted supplies. Rio Tinto insists that it has increased shipments to China.
China imports 80 per cent of its iron, mainly from Australia and Brazil, to produce steel. Last year, the country bought more than a billion tonnes of iron ore, more than 60 per cent of which came from Australia.

China relies far less on Australian coal, which accounted for about a quarter of its imports last year. This year, since Beijing sought to punish Canberra, the amount it imported fell to 1.8 million tonnes in November from 9.4 million tonnes in May.
China has insisted it is trying to reduce its dependence on coal. However, the combined effect of a surge in demand for electricity prompted by a colder than usual winter and the economic rebound following lockdown suggests that the country may not be able to wean itself off Australian coal so rapidly.

Full story ($)
3) Global coal demand to rebound as economy recovers
Bloomberg, 18 December 2020
Global coal demand is poised to rebound next year as the economy recovers and the U.S. and Europe may see the first increase in consumption in several years, the International Energy Agency said.
Despite the global shift toward economies based on renewable energy, the dirtiest fossil fuel looks set to keep its role as the world’s biggest power source although its share will slip to 35% in 2021 from 36.5% last year.

Coal use in power generation globally is expected to increase by as much as 2.8% next year as electricity demand rebounds particularly in Asia, the IEA said in its 2020 coal report.
Demand for the fuel will return in 2021 but won’t reach 2019 levels
Over the next 5 years, global demand is forecast to “flatten out” at around 7.4 billion tons, as declines in Europe and the U.S. will offset any increased use in Asia. The main drivers of demand for the fuel will continue to be China and India, which both rely heavily on the fuel in their energy mix.
While there are few signs that use of the fossil fuel will fade away any time soon, the IEA said that unless there are unforeseen developments that would significantly boost demand, it’s likely that consumption peaked in 2013.
EU coal demand is expected to increase marginally for the first time since 2012, rising 3.5%. The U.S. rebound will be the first since 2014, increasing consumption by 11.1% next year.

Full story
4) Rupert Darwall: China’s green NGO climate propaganda enablers
Real Clear Energy, 21 December 2020
Climate change is a national security threat – but not in the way the national security elite assumes.

Shortly before the Soviet Union collapsed, Greenpeace opened an office in Moscow. It enjoyed the patronage of a leading member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and enjoyed Kremlin funding, laundered through a state-owned record company. The green activist group made clear that it would have nothing to do with environmental groups in the Baltic republics. Recycling standard Soviet propaganda, Greenpeace denounced them as little more than separatist organizations.
This was by no means a one-off. The inconvenient truth: the environmental movement fought on the wrong side of the Cold War. In the early 1980s, it used the “nuclear winter” scare to try to stop Ronald Reagan’s nuclear build-up and undermine the West’s ability to negotiate the arms agreement that effectively ended the Cold War. It turns out that nuclear winter had been concocted by the KGB and transmitted to America by executives of the Rockefeller Family Fund. A nuclear winter conference held in 1983 was supported by 31 environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

This pattern, wherein the West’s enemies use the environmental movement – whether NGOs like Greenpeace, foundations, or “concerned scientists,” to undermine Western interests – is now being repeated, this time in respect to China. A report by Patricia Adams for the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation released earlier this month lays bare the role of the green movement in acting as China’s propagandists.

Since Xi Jinping became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party eight years ago, almost everyone who believed China’s communist regime would become more benign internally and less threatening externally has revised his opinion – everyone, that is, apart from climate activists. “Rather than becoming cautious about China’s role in the world, these groups lavish it with praise for its environmental efforts,” Adams notes. NRDC’s head of Asia strategy, Barbara Finamore, has even written a book, Will China Save the Planet? Perhaps the only surprise is the question mark.
China’s economy is based on hydrocarbons, which generate 86% of primary energy consumption. China added 11.4 gigawatts of new coal capacity in the first six months of 2020 (by contrast, the whole of 2019 saw 15.1 GW of coal capacity retired in the U.S.). Chinese state-owned utilities are expanding their coal fleets by about 10% over the next five years. Beijing is investing heavily in oil-refining capacity and now has the largest refining capacity after the U.S. China is also the world’s largest importer of natural gas.
2014 deal with Russia’s Gazprom ensures that China will import an average of 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year through the newly constructed, 1,875-mile Power of Siberia pipeline to December 2049. (For comparison, last year Gazprom supplied 2.0 TCF of gas to Germany through multiple pipelines). Additionally, China is expanding output from its coal mines to feed (at an estimated cost of $90 billion) 35 coal-to-chemicals projects – a technology more carbon-intensive than conventional petrochemical production.

According to its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, China aims to peak carbon dioxide emissions around 2030. Beijing therefore has an incentive to ramp up its greenhouse gas emissions in the current decade to bank the maximum possible peak. But the billions that China is pouring into new, long-lived carbon-emitting assets demonstrates the worthlessness of China’s accompanying NDC pledge to make “best efforts” to peak emissions before 2030.
A western country so flagrantly in breach of its Paris commitments would be slammed by green NGOs as a climate criminal imperilling planetary survival. China is different. “Prioritizing sustainability will cement China’s legacy as it assumes a larger role on the global stage,” declared Greenpeace. This is more than deluded wish fulfilment. Adams shows how a 2017 law governing green NGOs has turned these organizations into propaganda tools of the regime. They now must be sponsored by a designated agency or government department that monitors and supervises their activities, and they must submit annual workplans and budgets to these bodies. Failure to comply can result in seizure of assets, detention of staff, and a ban from conducting activities in China for five years – with no right of appeal.
Beijing doesn’t even need to pay for the propaganda work it wants to do inside the United States. The San Francisco-based NGO, Energy Foundation China, has disbursed over $330 million to U.S. registered organizations operating in China, funding provided by multibillion-dollar foundations such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The CEO of Energy Foundation China is Ji Zou, a Chinese national and former government official and climate negotiator.

“China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact,” Beijing’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi famously told a meeting of South East Asian nations in 2010. During the Cold War, Sweden, a small country, found itself precariously balanced between East and West.
Hoping to transcend East-West tensions, it embraced environmentalism and preened as a moral superpower. In 1972, Sweden hosted the first UN conference on the environment, which led to UN treaties on acid rain. It later led the push on climate change. But the underlying geopolitical realities of the Cold War were not dissolved – or even much affected – by holding conferences on environmental doom.
China is a great power using global warming to advance its geopolitical interests. Unlike the Soviet Union’s sclerotic economy, China’s is far from a state of collapse. Indeed, China is likely to be the only major economy to emerge larger at the end of 2020 than at the beginning. For China, climate change offers a strategic opportunity. Decarbonizing the rest of the world makes China’s economy stronger – it weakens its rivals’ economies, reduces the cost of energy for its hydrocarbon-hungry economy, and sinks energy-poor India as a potential Indo-Pacific rival.
The question for the incoming Biden administration concerns how America should respond: As a small country, or as a great power? Climate change is a national security threat, but not in the way that the national security establishment thinks. Obsessive focus on climate change threatens the vital interests of the United States by desensitizing national security professionals to geopolitical realities and subordinating them to the illusion of planetary salvation. China and its NGO allies won’t do anything to disabuse them of that illusion.
5) Walter Russell Mead: Beijing’s Collision With Christians
The Wall Street Journal, 21 December 2020

As the faith spreads, the Communist Party fears a threat to its political control.

Christian worshippers sing hymns to voice their opposition to an extradition law in Hong Kong, June 14, 2019. PHOTO: JEROME FAVRE/SHUTTERSTOCK

With the European Parliament threatening to block an investment deal with China over persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang, the shock waves released by Beijing’s Hong Kong crackdown still reverberating, and the debate over the next U.S. administration’s China policy heating up, this would seem like a bad time for Beijing to kick off another major international dustup over human rights.

But that logic holds little appeal for Chinese policy makers today; crushing domestic dissent takes priority over burnishing the country’s image. This is bad news for China’s Christians, who face growing hostility from a ruling party that until a few years ago was willing to turn a blind eye to the proliferation of unofficial “house churches” across the country.

That era of toleration coincided with one of the greatest expansions of Christianity in the past 2,000 years. From an estimated three million believers at the end of the Cultural Revolution, the number of Protestants in China is now believed to exceed 100 million, with another 10 million to 12 million Catholics. (The government offers an implausible figure of 38 million Protestants.) The Council on Foreign Relations cites a 2018 estimate from Purdue’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society of between 93 million and 115 million Protestants in China. Much of the growth has come since 2010, and some projections suggest that by 2030 China could surpass America to have the largest population of Christians in the world.

This is one of the few competitions with the U.S. that Beijing does not want to win. Churches are increasingly targets of the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of free speech. Some have been demolished; others have been “secularized” as local officials tear down religious symbols such as crosses. Authorities are now demanding the installation of cameras to monitor worshipers’ behavior and pastors’ sermons. There are reports of Catholic churches being forced to replace pictures of the Virgin Mary with portraits of Xi Jinping.

In October, National Review’s Cameron Hilditch pointed to a Xinhua News Agency report that the Communist Party has decided to produce a state-approved Bible. Mr. Hilditch reports that one change is to the New Testament story in which Jesus spares a woman taken in adultery from stoning by telling her accusers not to cast the first stone unless they are sinless. In the new, improved version, when the accusers have left, Jesus stones the woman himself, saying, “I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.”
Long before the Communists took power, Chinese rulers feared religious cults could cause political unrest. Given the history of Western countries demanding special privileges for missionaries, Christianity was seen as an alien and threatening faith, and the Communist Party was quick to expel missionaries and persecute local Christians after 1949. Protestantism and Catholicism are, with Islam, Buddhism and Taoism, among the officially recognized religions in China, but membership in any but state-licensed and state-controlled congregations is illegal—and no longer overlooked.
The explosive growth of Chinese Christianity is on a collision course with a government determined to centralize power in the Communist Party in ways not seen since the death of Mao. China’s Christians are to a great extent urban, well-educated and connected to global information networks. For these reasons, serious pressure on Christians will have an even more damaging impact on China’s international standing than what happened in Tibet, Xinjiang or Hong Kong. As news spreads that the Communist Party is persecuting Christians for their faith, the effects on American public opinion will be both explosive and long-lasting, potentially ending any hope for better or even stable relations between Washington and Beijing.

China’s rulers saw how the strong example of Pope John Paul II contributed to the collapse of communism in Poland, and they were horrified at the part South Korean Christians played in that country’s transition to democracy. Local Christians’ prominent role in the Hong Kong democracy movement provided yet another argument for those counseling a stern crackdown. Something very ugly may be in the works.

Throttling diversity at home at the cost of deepening isolation abroad. No earthly power has the ability to stop Beijing from choosing this path if that is what party leaders wish. But it is unlikely that China will like what it finds at the end of that road.

Let us hope in this season of peace and goodwill that moderation and tolerance will prevail in Beijing.
6) Electricity costs too high to make heat pumps worthwhile, MPs warn
The Daily Telegraph, 21 December 2020

Electricity is too expensive to make heat pumps worthwhile, MPs have warned, as they urged the government to rethink environmental costs passed onto customers.


The high cost of electricity compared to gas risk putting people off ditching their gas boiler for the cleaner alternative, which runs on electricity, the Environmental Audit Committee said.
In a letter to Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, Philip Dunne, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, said high electricity bills are a “significant barrier to heat pump adoption”.
Electricity is around four times more expensive than gas because of costs passed onto the consumer from environmental programmes and social measures such as the Warm Homes Discount, which gives some households cheaper energy bills. These extra costs are not added to gas bills.
Figures from Ofgem show that environmental and social costs make up 23 per cent of the average electricity bill and just two per cent of the average gas bill.
Last month the committee heard calls from some witnesses to add carbon taxes to gas in order to incentivise switching.

MCS, which certifies installers of renewable energy, said the government should price out gas and oil from the market by adding a carbon tax to fossil fuels used for heating. 

Emma Pinchbeck, the chief executive of trade association Energy UK, said that “all the price signals in the market point to a gas boiler as being the most sensible technology to install.”

Full story (£)
see also Cost of Decarbonising Housing
7) 600,000 Britons have fallen into fuel poverty during Covid pandemic
The Big Issue, 20 December 2020

The Covid-19 crisis has pushed more than half a million people into debt on their fuel bills, new research shows, and more than two million are behind on payments.

The Citizens Advice findings “confirm the worst fears” about the impact of stay at home advice during winter, fuel poverty campaigners said, calling for fuel debt relief from the Government.

More than two million households are behind on their energy payments, the report said, meaning 600,000 more people have fallen into debt since the pandemic gripped the UK.

A quarter of the adults surveyed said they were worried about being unable to afford fuel bills this winter. This suggests up to seven million households had similar concerns heading into the colder months.

“The findings are truly shocking,” End Fuel Poverty Coalition coordinator Simon Francis told The Big Issue.

“They confirm the worst fears that a double whammy of stay at home instructions during colder weather would lead to more people in fuel poverty.

“Given we are so early on in the winter season and the worst weather is still to come, we need urgent action from energy firms and government to support those in fuel poverty.

“The time for fuel poverty debt relief, not just deferral of bills, is now.”
Those who have not come to a repayment arrangement with their supplier owe an average £760 for electricity and £605 for gas, Citizens Advice said.

The charity is urging suppliers to double down on proactive support for customers who fall into hardship during the pandemic after 59 per cent of people said the options they were offered after plunging into debt were helpful.

But the research showed one in seven people who tried to contact their supplier couldn’t get through, while call waiting times have increased for two thirds of suppliers – something campaigners say can pose a significant barrier to vulnerable people looking for help.

Full story
8) And Finally: Europe's wind and e-car industry dependent on China's magnetic metals 
Clean Energy Wire, 22 December 2020

The green energy industry, in particular the wind energy sector, has become increasingly dependent on China for vital magnetic metals, writes Stefan Hajek in WirtschaftsWoche Online.
Wind farms are set to play an ever larger role in the world’s future energy supply. Offshore wind power capacity in the EU alone is expected to increase 25-fold by 2050.

Magnetic metals such as neodymium are an essential component for wind turbines as well as for every modern electric motor, including those used in almost every electric car and plug-in hybrid. That’s leading to a bottleneck in two main sectors of the energy transition that very few political leaders and industry executives have addressed, Hajek notes. The extraction and processing of neodymium almost entirely in the hands of one country, China. The country already used its market power once before, in 2009, and paralysed entire industries worldwide with an export boycott on rare earths for computers.

Hajek warns that China could do this again in other industries in view of its ongoing trade conflicts with the US, which he says are not expected to ease under President-elect Joe Biden. “This time there is even more at stake than in 2009,” Hajek writes. “Without a sufficient supply of magnetic metals, climate protection will be much more difficult, protracted and much more expensive,” says Oliver Gutfleisch, professor of Functional Materials at the Technical University of Darmstadt. “The energy transition is also a material transition -- it doesn't work without certain raw materials. That is often overlooked.”

Bernd Schäfer and Andreas Klossek, who head the EU’s European Innovation and Technology (EIT) Raw Materials think tank, are sounding the alarm despite the fact that companies have not yet had any problems getting magnets. The US Geological Survey agency expects the demand for permanent magnets to double by 2029. "90 percent of e-cars and all hybrid cars have electric motors with permanent magnets," says Klossek. “We expect a supply shortfall of 65,000 tonnes per year for the ores required from 2030 onwards.”

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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