Air Quality

Published on March 31st, 2015 | by Cynthia Shahan


Beijing’s Four Major Coal-Fired Power Plants Will Completely Shut Down

March 31st, 2015 by  

Coal, which has nearly done in Beijing, is soon to be done itself in Beijing. China is cutting pollution in an effort to lose its role as the world’s largest carbon emitter and also clean up the air its citizens breathe. Next year, the last of Bejing’s four major coal-fired power plants will completely shut down. China Huaneng Group Corp.’s 845-megawatt power plant will close in 2016. Plants owned by Guohua Electric Power Corp. and Beijing Energy Investment Holding Co. closed this month according to a statement on the website of the city’s economic planning agency. Last year, a major power plant owned by China Datang Corp. also shut down.

Bejing, China smog

Bloomberg Business reports that “the facilities will be replaced by four gas-fired stations with a capacity to supply 2.6 times more electricity than the coal plants.”

A trend in China is taking hold, no doubt an outcome of the country’s infamy as a major polluter —  a byproduct of high-speed, unchecked economic growth. Pressure at home, where people want breathable air — something China is short on — combined with pressure abroad enforces the shift. Policymakers have to immediately work to blunt sources of pollutants and resolve the environmental damage. According to Bloomberg Business, “Beijing plans to cut annual coal consumption by 13 million metric tons by 2017 from the 2012 level in a bid to slash the concentration of pollutants.”

“Shutting all the major coal power plants in the city, equivalent to reducing annual coal use by 9.2 million metric tons, is estimated to cut carbon emissions of about 30 million tons, said Tian Miao, a Beijing-based analyst at North Square Blue Oak Ltd., a London-based research company with a focus on China.”

“Most pollutants come from burning coal, so the closure will have a clear impact to reduce emissions,” Tian said. “The replacement with natural gas will be much cleaner with less pollution, though with a bit higher cost.”

“Nationally, China planned to close more than 2,000 smaller coal mines from 2013 to the end of this year, Song Yuanming, vice chief of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, said at a news conference in July.”


Being the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, coal is a major lead of carbon-dioxide emissions. It is terribly toxic to the country as well. In many areas, the blackened clouds necessitate masks to breathe. Cutting coal use is an essential step in addressing pollution in China. China has about 64% of its primary energy use coming from from coal, according to Bloomberg Business.

China’s electricity consumption did grow last year, as it has for decades, but it slowed to the lowest growth rate of the last 16 years, according to data from the China Electricity Council. Furthermore, CO2 emissions fell 2% in 2014 compared to 2013 — according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimate based on preliminary energy demand data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics. That’s the country’s first drop in emissions since 2001.

It seems that the pressure to protect its people from deadly air pollution must be the biggest portion of the push to retire coal. Heavy smog looming in large skies makes air pollution there some of the worst in the world, and there has been increasing public attention to it in the past few years as it enveloped the whole of China, Beijing, and Shanghai. In a report from China’s National Bureau of Statistics earlier this month, it is estimated “90 percent of the 161 cities whose air quality was monitored in 2014 failed to meet official standards. The level of PM2.5, the small particles that pose the greatest risk to human health, averaged 85.9 micrograms per cubic meter last year in the capital, compared with the national standard of 35.”

According to Bloomberg News, “The city also aims to take other measures such as closing polluted companies and cutting cement production capacity to clear the air this year, according to the Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.”

So change is peeking out of the dark clouds. It is simply not soon enough for the safety of the most vulnerable populations — however, nice to know China is finally changing for the better. As CleanTechnica reported when writing about the results of the closure of a coal-burning power plant in Tongliang, China, that led to great improvements in children’s health:

“The key to limiting the health impacts of environmental exposures is the policy change supported by scientific evidence. These findings indicate that regulation can rapidly decrease exposure and improve health outcomes among the most sensitive populations, providing support for implementing additional measures such as the closure of the Tongliang coal-fired power plant,” stated Dr Tang, director of the China studies at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health and associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School.

Related Stories:

Beijing To Ban Coal By 2020

Under The Dome — Chinese Documentary On Air Pollution Spurs Government Action?

China To Triple Solar Capacity To 70,000 MW By 2017, To Help Reduce Air Pollution

Beijing Hopes To Quadruple New Energy Vehicles In 2015

Image by kevin dooley, via flickr  & Foter (CC BY 2.0)

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About the Author

is a Mother, an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropology Studies, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

  • heinbloed

    The power plants which aren’t closing have less to do:

    ” The daily coal consumption at China’s
    six leading coastal power plants was at 628,000 tonnes at the end of
    March, down 10% compared to the same period last year.”

    This might be because of improvements in efficiency or simply due to less demand and more competition:

    Global coal demand is certainly leveling out:

    A bit shorter:

    A substantial recovery of coal prices isn’t expected for this year. Some say that this won’t be seen at all during this decade.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Beijing to ban over 50% of all fueled vehicles on the smoggiest days. This should boost EV sales.

    “Motorists will be limited to driving on alternate days when the city announces a “red alert”, forecasting heavy pollution for three days, Beijing’s environmental protection bureau said in a statement late on Monday.

    The bureau defines heavy pollution when the air quality index tops 200, under its four color-coded air quality warning system.

    Heavy vehicles including construction vehicles will be banned from the roads during orange or red alerts, the environmental protection bureau said.”

  • Will E

    Cynthia, you had a beautiful article about 1 week construction time 1 Mgw Solar Plant. send 100 companies to Beying, and in 8,5 weeks they install 850 Mgw. Clean Cheap and Easy.

    • cynthia shahan

      Thank you. Lovely that you enjoyed it.

  • JamesWimberley

    Good news indeed. The closure of 2,000 small coal mines should also reduce the human toll of mining, as the bigger mines are no doubt more professionally run and less dangerous.

  • Martin

    That is good news, not just for China, but also for the rest of the world and all the other countries the pollution travels to.

    • Will E

      It blows to pacific, spreads out, creating a blanket of insulation over the water, causing high seawater temperature, causing category 5 hurricanes, devastating Philippines and Vanuatu.

      • Joe Viocoe

        Huh? What pollution is this?

        • Coley

          Shsss, go back to sleep.

          • Joe Viocoe

            Okay… nighty night

  • Tom Capon

    “The replacement with natural gas will be much cleaner with less pollution, though with a bit higher cost.”

    And those costs will be recovered many times over in health savings and improved economic output. I wish mainstream reporters would catch on that reducing pollution is a win-win, not a win-lose proposition.

    • Aku Ankka

      True. Unfortunately it is much easier to see concrete, immediate and tangible cost increase in fuel price (and energy bill), than to try to statistically determine change in long-term damage control costs.
      So it is a case of pay-more-now vs most-likely-pay-less-in-future, where people are notoriously bad at estimating pay-offs or taking rational actions. Much easier to explain simple cost changes than more complicated (gu)estimates on future savings.

      I agree that it should be mentioned as part of the trade-off of course, that it is not just nice-to-have preference of clear skies, but actual life-or-death action.

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