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16 September 2020

#1 COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker

How is the pandemic reshaping China’s energy sector?

#1 COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker


The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has precipitated the most severe global recession since the 1930s. The International Monetary Fund recently projected that the global economy could contract significantly by 4.9 per cent year-over-year (YOY) in 2020. And China, once a seemingly unstoppable economic juggernaut, saw its economy decline by 6.8 per cent YOY in the first quarter of 2020. The last time China reported an economic contraction was at the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, more than four decades ago.

The second largest economy after the United States, China ranks first in the world in terms of energy production, energy consumption, carbon emissions, power generation, the clean-energy market and imports of coal, oil and gas. In 2019, fuel combustion in China accounted for about 29 per cent of global carbon emissions, and coal-fired power plants in China alone represented near half of global capacity. Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on China’s energy sector is important not only for the country’s own energy transition but also for the global climate agenda.

With the COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker, we at Agora Energiewende regularly provide up-to-date information on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted China’s energy sector, covering the sector-level development of energy supply, consumption, carbon emissions and other key indicators. The COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker will feature a series of reports aiming to better inform the international community and Chinese audiences alike about COVID-19’s effects on the Chinese energy economy.

Key findings

  1. The pandemic triggered an unprecedented economic contraction in the first quarter of 2020, the first time China has experienced a decline in national output in over four decades.

    Following a drastic slump of 6.8 per cent YOY in Q1, the Chinese economy rebounded with 3.2 per cent YOY growth in Q2. China is projected to be the only major economy to see positive growth in 2020.

  2. COVID-19-induced climate and environmental benefits will be short-lived.

    Because of the coal-intensive economic recovery in Q2 2020, China’s carbon emissions and air pollution have already returned to pre-crisis levels. Structural changes and a green stimulus package are urgently needed to steer China’s economic recovery in a more environmentally sustainable direction.

  3. The National Bureau of Statistics should consider readjusting China’s energy statistical reporting in the near future, especially with regard to coal-related data.

    Because of coal’s dominance in China’s primary energy mix and the uncertainty associated with the country’s statistical reporting on coal in recent years, it is important to focus attention on tracking the changes and trends in China’s economic activity and energy consumption instead of on the absolute numbers provided in our COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker reports.

Bibliographical data

Kevin Jianjun Tu, Zhou Yang
Publication number
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Publication date

16 September 2020

Suggested Citation
Agora Energiewende (2020): COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker: How is the pandemic reshaping China’s energy sector? Issue 1.
This publication was produced within the framework of the project COVID-19 China Energy Impact Tracker.


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