Coal is the major primary energy which fuels economic growth in China. The original Soviet-style institutions of the coal sector were adopted after the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. But since the end of 1970s there have been major changes: a market system was introduced to the coal sector and the Major State Coalmines were transferred from central to local governments. This paper explains these market-oriented and decentralizing trends and explores their implications for the electric power sector, now the largest single consumer of coal.
The argument of this paper is that the market-oriented and decentralizing reforms in the coal sector were influenced by the changes in state energy investment priority as well as the relationship between the central and local governments in the context of broader reforms within China’s economy. However, these market-oriented and decentralizing reforms have not equally influenced the electric power sector. Since coal is the primary input into Chinese power generation, and power sector reform falls behind coal sector reform, the tension between the power and coal sectors is unavoidable and has raised concerns about electricity shortages.