Tuesday, 6 April 2021

 

China’s reliance on coal gathers steam

Half of all new coal plant capacity in development globally is in China. Picture: Getty Images
Half of all new coal plant capacity in development globally is in China. Picture: Getty Images
  • By Ben Webster
  • 2 hours ago 

A big increase in coal-fired power stations opening in China offset all the closures in the rest of the world last year, a report says.

Coal plants with a collective capacity of 37.75 gigawatts were retired globally last year, with the US shutting down 11.3 gigawatts and the European Union 10.1 gigawatts, according to analysis by Global Energy Monitor, a group that monitors fossil fuel trends. The total reduction was close to the record of 37.8 gigawatts that closed in 2015.

However, China opened 38.4 gigawatts of new plants in the same period, just over three quarters of the global total of 50.3 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity. China is building 88.1 gigawatts of coal power and a further 158.7 gigawatts are planned, totalling 246.8 gigawatts, half of all new coal plant capacity in development globally.

China’s continued reliance on coal is undermining the UK’s plan to make the closure of coal plants a key theme of COP26, the UN climate conference due to be held in Glasgow in November.

Coal supplied only 1.6 per cent of the UK’s electricity last year, down from almost 25 per cent five years ago. The country’s three remaining coal-fired power stations are due to close by 2024.

The report also revealed that more coal plants were retired under President Trump than in President Obama’s second term, despite Trump promising to end the “war on coal”. A total of 52.4 gigawatts was retired in 2017-21, exceeding the 48.9 gigawatts shut down in the preceding four years.

India was second to China in the amount of coal capacity that opened last year but its total of 2 gigawatts was well down on its annual average of 17 gigawatts from 2010 to 2017.

Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, which contributed to the report, said: “Dozens of new coal power projects, equal to the total coal power capacity of Germany and Poland combined, were announced last year in China. These projects are a key test of the country’s pledge to reach peak emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060. Cancelling them would put the country on track to the low-carbon development the leadership says it wants to pursue.”

The Times

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