Analysis explains how Beijing runs Olympics on ‘green’ power
The Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing – which China has said would run solely on “green” electricity – has accelerated the development of the renewable energy infrastructure of the co-host city of Zhangjiakou, a Carbon Brief guest post has found. Situated some 110 miles northwest of the Chinese capital, Zhangjiakou has seen rapid installations of wind and solar capacity – so much so that the city’s renewable energy capacity now dwarfs that of many countries – the analysis discovered. It noted that Zhangjiakou is also home to a “pioneering” renewable energy grid, which uses high-voltage direct current to transport locally generated wind and solar power to Beijing users. The analysis is written by Carbon Brief’s guest contributors, Lauri Myllyvirta
and Xing Zhang
from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air
HOW: The analysis showed that the total electricity consumption from the start of the preparation to the end of this Olympics would be about 400 gigawatt hours (GWh) and that the organisers had reportedly purchased 237GWh of renewable power by the end of 2021. This indicates that the electricity use at the venues during the games themselves would be 160GWh or so. The analysis pointed out that the wind and solar power generation in Zhangjiakou during the 17 days of the Winter Olympics is due to be around 2,300GWh, more than 10 times the venues’ projected electricity use.
‘LEGACY’: According to the article, China’s renewables push for the Olympics would benefit Beijing’s low-carbon energy transition in the long run. It noted that the renewable electricity grid is projected to continue providing Beijing with about 10% of the capital’s annual electricity consumption every year – or around 14 terawatt hours (TWh) – after the games. But the analysis also highlighted China’s “continued reliance” on coal power as the coal-fired power plants in and near Beijing have been instructed to be ready to supply power if needed.
The analysis came as Beijing’s efforts to make the Winter Olympics 2022 “carbon neutral” attracted wide attention. One particular talking point has been the “tiny” Olympics flame at the opening ceremony. The flame was “subject to plenty of ridicule outside the mainland by viewers who expected the usual giant cauldron”, the South China Morning Post
reported. However, according to the team behind the ceremony, the design was aimed at saving fuel and showing China’s determination to cut emissions, according to Beijing-based Bing Dian Weekly
. The director of the ceremony, Zhang Yimou, a renowned film director, told China’s state news agency Xinhua
that the inspiration came from a “low-carbon and environmental concept”. In the meantime, some international media outlets, such as Associated Press
, shone a spotlight on the technology of using carbon dioxide (CO2) as a refrigerant for the games.
The debate over Beijing’s 100% dependence on artificial snow has continued. Several international outlets raised concerns over the past week. CNN
described human-made snow as “incredibly resource-intensive”, while the New York Times
called it “the environmentally unfriendly secret of winter sports”. Time
said the International Olympic Committee’s selection of Beijing “raises questions about how sustainable the Winter Olympics are”. The Washington Post
ran an opinion piece titled: “The Beijing Olympics’ snow problem is more serious than you think.” In comparison, Chinese state media has praised Beijing’s snow-making technology. The Global Times
reported that “high-quality, green man-made snow is a feature of the Beijing Winter Olympics”. Chinanews.com
said that the organisers were using surface water and “green” electricity to make snow, which “will not cause a burden to the environment”. Furthermore, the Science and Technology Daily
reported on Beijing’s “highly efficient utilisation of snow”.
China issues ‘guiding opinions’ for iron and steel industry
Three central government agencies – namely, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment – jointly issued “guiding opinions
” on the nation’s iron and steel industry on Monday. The document says that it aims to promote “high-quality growth” of the industry, which it describes as being a “foundation” and “key” to China’s “green, low-carbon development”. (“High-quality growth” is a social and economic development model proposed by China’s president Xi Jinping in 2017, which prioritises
quality and benefits over scale and speed.) The document is not to be confused with the industry’s carbon-peaking “implementation plan
”, which is expected to be released this year.
The “guiding opinions” instruct the iron and steel industry – the largest
coal consumer in the country – to employ “innovative” technologies and “control” its total production. They also direct the industry to carry out its “green” and “low-carbon” transition in a “coordinated
” way. In particular, they order the industry to “ensure” that it will peak its carbon emissions “before 2030”. The timeline is different from the targets previously set by a national industry association. The China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) said
last March that the industry would aim to peak its emissions “before 2025”. It also said that “by 2030”, the industry’s emissions should be 30% lower than the peak level. (Last week’s China Briefing
explained the importance of “guiding opinions” in China’s governing system.)
The document also lists a series of quantitative targets to be met “by 2025”. For example, it directs the industry to complete “super-low-emission” renovations for more than 80% of its production capacity, reduce its “comprehensive energy consumption
” per tonne of steel by more than 2% and cut water consumption by more than 10%. It also stipulates that more than 15% of the crude steel
production should come from electricity-powered furnaces.
Some Chinese media outlets have interpreted the 2030 peaking target as a “delay”. Jiemian News
reported that the draft
of the “guiding opinions” had directed the iron and steel industry to “attempt to take the lead and achieve carbon peaking by 2025”. Wang Guoqing – director of the Lange Steel Information Research Centre in Beijing – told the website that the change was to “prevent overreaction” and “ensure safe carbon reduction”. The 21st Century Business Herald
reported that the timeline was “delayed by five years” compared to the draft. Xu Xiangchun – director at Shanghai-based commodity information provider My Steel – told the newspaper the fact that the final document did not stress peaking emissions ahead of schedule was “beneficial” for the industry to reduce emissions “orderly”. Internationally, Bloomberg
said that Beijing had “quietly scaled back its ambition to cut carbon emissions from the giant steel industry”.
Zhong Shaoliang – chief representative of the World Steel Association’s
Beijing Office – told Carbon Brief that the 2030 peaking target in the document “does not mean that the Chinese government intends to delay the carbon-peaking time of the iron and steel industry”. He said that, instead, the government set a looser time range “out of consideration for the amount of steel economic development would require and the progress of the development of decarbonisation technologies”. He noted that the move could also prevent steel companies from setting “overzealous” or “unrealistic” goals purely to peak their emissions. Zhong added: “My personal view is that, based on the trend of China’s demand for steel before 2030, the industry’s actual peaking time is highly likely to be before 2025. However, under the 2030 target, steel companies will be able to formulate more scientific, sensible and orderly low-carbon development strategies.”
SIGNIFICANCE: According to Zhong, the iron and steel industry emits the most carbon emissions in all of China’s industrial sectors, with its emissions accounting for about 17% of the national total. “It is also the hardest industry to decarbonise”, he said, adding that its endeavour to achieve China’s carbon-peaking and carbon neutrality goals “would set a great example for other industrial sectors”. He continued: “More importantly, steel is the main material for the construction, automobile, mechanical and other industries. Therefore, only the steel that meets the requirements under the ‘dual-carbon’ goals can help other industries achieve the same targets.”