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Chinese government has ordered 103 planned coal plants to be canceled

Megan Geuss
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 29: A Chinese man wears a mask as he waits to cross the road near the CCTV building during heavy smog on November 29, 2014, in Beijing, China.
This week, China’s Energy Administration issued a directive to cancel planning and construction on 85 coal plants in the country, according to The New York Times. An additional 18 were ordered to be canceled late last year. The 103 plants represent an astounding 120GW of capacity that would have come online for the country in the coming years.
The coal plants on the chopping block span 13 provinces, mostly in China’s northern and western regions. The Times reports that China’s Energy Administration was quite specific on which plants must halt development, but it’s unclear whether locals will immediately adhere to the directive—some of these plants have been under construction for 10 years already, and local officials may be reluctant to abandon those projects and fire the construction workers.
The cancellation is indicative of an economic imbalance that external environmental trackers have noted for a while—China has over-invested in coal power plants, with its existing capacity “being used less than half the time” according to Carbon Tracker. The International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that China accounts for more than 900GW of coal-sourced capacity, making it the biggest energy-related carbon polluter in the world. The country has promised to limit its coal-based capacity to 1,100GW by 2020, and this new directive will help China reach that goal.
By contrast, the US only has four coal plants that are expected to come online between now and 2020. It currently has a bit more than 300GW of coal-powered capacity.
Oddly enough, China’s recent strides to curtail fossil fuel dependence also make it the world’s largest investor in non-carbon-emitting energy sources like solar, wind, and nuclear energy, according to the IEA. But China's renewable investments have run aground on their share of problems, too—The New York Times reported that a handful of China’s largest wind plants are sitting idle due to transmission capacity issues, economic slowdown, and local officials favoring the coal industry in some regions.
China’s rapid investment in energy projects of all kinds doesn’t seem to be slowing down. At the beginning of this month, the country announced that it would spend more than $360 billion on renewable energy through 2020.
In an article published this week, the IEA wrote that China’s existing coal-powered plants represent almost 50 percent of the world’s coal electricity-related emissions, and the country’s plants are some of the youngest in the world—meaning they could keep running for several more decades before being retired. The IEA suggested that China had a “significant opportunity” to retrofit up to 310GW of its existing capacity with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology to reduce the amount of CO2 that’s being vented into the air.
Correction: This article has been corrected to distinguish GW of capacity from GWh of energy generation.
Chinese government has ordered 103 planned coal plants to be canceled Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 12:31 AM Rating: 5

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