China is increasing the number of coal plants in the country in a bid to meet its energy demands despite committing to reducing such initiatives as a part of climate control policies. The country has already exceeded its 5-year coal plant power targets.
China breaking emissions commitments
Research group CoalSwarm did a study on the coal power situation in China. It found that a number of coal plants are set to be deployed in the county. “This new evidence that China’s central government hasn’t been able to stop the runaway coal-fired power plant building is alarming — the planet can’t tolerate another U.S.-sized block of plants to be built,” The Guardian quotes Ted Nace, executive director of CoalSwarm.
As per the current 5-year government plan, electricity production through coal should be limited to 1100GW by 2020. However, considering that the existing capacity is 993GW and an extra 259GW will soon be added through the new plants, coal-based electricity production will definitely exceed the 2020 target.
The reason for the surge in coal plants is said to be the government’s decision to allow provincial authorities to issue permits for such construction projects. As a consequence, the number of permits issued for coal plants jumped threefold between 2013 and 2015. It is these plants that are currently being deployed.
Some argue that China is building the new plants not to boost its electricity production, but to stimulate the local economies, since most of the coal plants in the country only run for about half the time. As such, constructing the new plants is not necessary from the perspective of electricity production since the output could have been increased by simply running the existing plants for longer durations.
But whatever the reason may be, the fact of the matter is that China continues to depend on coal to meet its increasing energy demands. Considering the huge amounts of pollution that the country produces every year, the new coal plants will only worsen the situation.
“Avoiding dangerous climate change requires essentially phasing out coal plants globally by 2045. China needs to begin planning for the aggressive retirement of its existing coal fleet, not building hundreds of new coal plants,” BBC quotes the lead author of the study, Christine Shearer.
Climate control initiatives
While Beijing may have failed in controlling the build-up of coal power plants, this in no way suggests that the government has been an utter failure in combating pollution. In fact, they have been quite active in introducing new projects to keep emissions in check.
Just last year, China launched the largest coal trading market in the world. Beijing hopes that companies will eventually be able to become greener in their operation through buying and selling excessive carbon emissions. While the first phase only covered power generation companies, the project will eventually expand to most of the domestic industries that have been identified as being a major contributor to pollution.
China is also investing heavily in renewable energy. In 2017, the country’s investments in renewables touched a massive US$126.6 billion, which was about 45 percent of global investment. Solar power generation increased by almost 100 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. Now, all China has to do is to keep these initiatives running while cutting back on its dependence on coal. If Beijing can do this, it will be helping itself and the world in a huge way.