China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has revealed that China has currently halted construction on new coal-fired power plants in an effort to avoid building over-capacity while simultaneously hoping to promote a cleaner energy mix.
The Chinese Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday that China had halted construction on a total of 150 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power generation capacity between 2016 and 2020 — the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan period. Xinhua reported on a statement released by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which stated that “New capacity will be strictly controlled” and that “All illegal coal-burning power projects will be halted.”
Further, not only is the Chinese government halting future development, the NDRC added that it will be eliminating 20 GW worth of outdated capacity, while nearly 1,000 GW of coal capacity will be upgraded to producer fewer emissions, use less energy, and better coordinate with future energy development.
Overall, the Chinese government is aiming to keep the country’s total coal power capacity below 1,100 GW by 2020.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, the NDRC’s move “followed an ongoing campaign to downsize bloated heavy industries, especially coal mining and steel smelting” in which “Solid progress has been made to shut down inefficient coal mines, and more measures are in the pipeline.”
China’s coal capacity has long been under close scrutiny given the country’s significant greenhouse gas emissions. However, in recent years, China has also been the country making the biggest moves to curtail its reliance upon coal — though this is something of a false narrative, considering that China simply had the largest amount of coal, and any curtailment would be considered huge. China reported towards the end of 2014 that its coal use had dropped by 1.28% — the first time coal use had declined in China this century. Not long after, China’s coal consumption and CO2 emissions were reported to both have dropped in 2014. This was the beginning of a trend which we have seen play out over the last few years. Figures over the first few months of 2015 showed that coal use only continued to fall, inevitably leading to a coal consumption decline in 2016 of 3.7%.
This most recent announcement to curtail development of coal and dial back existing coal infrastructure isn’t a new step for China, either, having in the past 12 months made significant steps to halt construction on its future coal plans. Towards the end of 2016 and over the first few months of this year, China announced the cancellation of 30 large coal-fired power plants amounting to 17 gigawatts (GW), followed soon after by the cancellation of 104 more under-construction and planned coal projects amounting to 120 GW. Unsurprisingly, therefore, China’s coal use declined further in 2016, down by 4.7% over 2015 levels, while coal’s contribution to overall energy consumption declined by 2% to 62%.