(Reuters) – China’s aluminum sector will have to cover a dedicated power capacity equivalent to more than Germany’s entire coal fleet over the next decade to keep Beijing on track to fulfill its carbon pledge, said climate think-tank Ember.
China accounts for more than half of global aluminum production, producing 37 million tonnes by 2020. President Xi Jinping has promised that China will achieve peak emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.
Ember, in a report to be published on Monday, said last year’s record aluminum output emitted more CO2 than several countries, including Indonesia and Brazil.
China will need to close around 47 gigawatts of inefficient subcritical coal power capacity dedicated to aluminum over the next 10 years or more if it is to become carbon neutral by mid-century, report author Muyi Yang told Reuters.
The total German coal power capacity is 42 GW.
Chinese aluminum makers have long relied on off-grid captive power plants for energy-intensive smelting processes, with generating units alone accounting for about 65% of the electricity they use, according to Yang.
But they are being pushed by the government to use cleaner sources of electricity and join China’s long-awaited emissions trading scheme in the low-carbon aluminum drive.
Recent years have seen a significant migration of aluminum capacity to China’s southwestern Yunnan province, which has abundant hydropower resources.
But “further action is still needed,” said Yang, a senior electricity policy analyst at Ember. “The magnitude of the challenge is enormous.”
Smelters should use cleaner electricity when available but can also improve production efficiency and do better recycling of aluminum, he said, adding China should encourage more efficient use of aluminum throughout its economy.
More than 45% of China’s inefficient captive coal capacity is at the heart of the Shandong province’s smelter, said Ember, with more than a third, or 17 GW, owned by China’s leading private sector producer Hongqiao Group.
Hongqiao, one of the smelters that has moved capacity to Yunnan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Tom Daly; Edited by Susan Fenton