context: Overall, the readout’s tone emphasises stability. It calls for a rapid rollout of renewables, and for coal to be supported as the mainstay until this is achieved. Cautious language on coal implies that strict phasing-down policies are unlikely in 2022. Official confirmation that emissions targets will replace energy consumption targets will boost demand for renewables and allow regulators to more directly address emissions.

Energy policy will be inclined towards stability in 2022, hints the readout from CEWC (Central Economic Work Conference), released 10 Dec 2021.

On energy, the readout emphasises

  • carbon peaking and neutrality are intrinsic requirements of ‘high-quality development’, but cannot be achieved in ‘one fell swoop’
  • adhering to principles of (energy/resource) conservation, coordination and risk prevention
  • the ‘gradual phase-out’ of conventional energy sources must only occur on the basis of new energy sources being secure and reliable
  • recognising the role of coal as the nation’s energy ‘mainstay’
  • promoting clean and efficient use of coal
  • increasing absorption of renewable power
  • promoting an optimal combination of coal and renewables
  • consumption of both newly-added renewable power and energy raw materials (CP note: referring to using coal and gas as raw materials rather than for energy) will be exempted from ‘dual control’ energy consumption targets
  • shifting the ‘dual control’ energy consumption system to focus on total carbon emissions and emissions intensity as soon as possible
  • accelerating the creation of incentives and restrictions to control pollution and emissions
  • the role of major SOEs in ensuring energy security

This readout indicates that under current conditions, reducing emissions is not equivalent to phasing out coal ‘in one go’, writes The Paper.

The move to exempt newly-added renewables from ‘dual control’ regulations builds on changes introduced in ‘Plan for improving the energy consumption intensity and volume dual control system’, issued in September 2021. Now, power from newly-added renewables will not be included at all, which will accelerate the rollout of renewables, especially in provinces that struggle to meet ‘dual control’ targets, writes The Paper.