The Chinese authorities have halted construction on 30 large coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 17 GW — a figure that is greater than the entire coal fleet of the United Kingdom — underscoring the country’s desires to minimize its reliance upon coal-generated electricity.
Greenpeace’s Energydesk reported the move, referring to Chinese-language news reports that also claim China is dramatically downscaling plans for transmitting coal-fired electricity from the west of China to the coast, via a network of long-distance transmission lines.
On top of that, a further 30 large coal-fired power plants are also being scrapped — ten of which were already under construction.
All told, China is scrapping coal-fired power plant construction capacity equivalent to the entire capacity of the United Kingdom and Spain.
China, one of the world’s largest emitters, has long been the face of coal-heavy countries, unwilling to mitigate their own use. However, in recent years, this has been furthest from the truth, as China has more and more evolved to be a leading example of how to trend away from reliance on coal. Energydesk has been monitoring China’s coal-use closely, and in 2014 reported that coal use in China had fallen for the first time this century, dropping in 2014 by 1.28%. This might not sound like much, but in May of the following year, only seven months later, coal consumption fell by almost 8% compared to the same time a year earlier.
Writing in March, Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, pointed to figures which showed China’s coal consumption in 2015 fell by 3.7%, while solar and wind energy capacity increased by 74% and 34% respectively.
Meanwhile, in September, CoalSwarm reported that though China was still the owner of the world’s largest pipeline for planned coal capacity, it had nevertheless suspended 77.5 GW of the country’s pre-construction proposals, and had suggested that it might continue and suspend all new coal plant construction until 2018.
It’s been a long road for China. I have covered the country’s desire to wean itself off coal for several years now, ever since state news agency Xinhua reported that the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) had adopted revisions to the Environmental Protection Law, announcing that China had “declared war” against pollution “and pledged to fight it with the same determination the country battled poverty.” This led quickly to reduced inner-city use of coal, and cuts to the capital’s coal use — a preface of much that was to come.