Coal comprises 70 of primary energy sources and 80 of electricity generation in China. This paper investigates the coal consumption-economic growth nexus in an integrated demand-supply framework over the period from 1978 to 2010. We incorporate the role of coal technology to explain the growth process. Using the Autoregressive Distributed Lag bounds testing approach, we find improvement in the coal-to-electricity efficiency indicator, a proxy for coal technology, causing almost a 35 increase in real GDP in the long run. The Toda-Yamamoto causality test indicates unidirectional causality from coal consumption to economic growth, feedback effects both for coal-to-electricity efficiency indicator to economic growth and coal demand and openness to coal consumption. For a robustness check, we forecast the validity of the causal relationships beyond the sample horizon using the generalised forecast error variance decomposition method. Our analysis suggests that improving overall efficiency in coal sector will continue to play a significant role in maintaining sustainable growth in China in the long run.