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China Cancels 103 Coal Power Plants; Still Has Too Much Coal Capacity

The cuts mean that China is on target to meet its coal power generation limit for year 2020. But even with the cancellations, China will have surplus coal power resulting in underutilization of renewable power due to preference for coal by utilities.
January 20, 2017, 9am PST | Irvin Dawid
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Jiujiang power plant

The massive cancellations follows the announcement last August that coal usage in the world's most populous and greenhouse-gas emitting nation peaked in 2014.

"The cancellations make it likelier that China will meet its goal of limiting its total coal-fired power generation capacity to 1,100 gigawatts by 2020," reports Michael Forsythe for The New York Times.

Too much coal power

That huge figure, three times the total coal-fired capacity in the United States, is far more than China needs. Its coal plants now run at about half of capacity, and new sources of power, like wind, solar and nuclear, are coming online at a fast clip.

The canceled projects, some under construction, would have contributed 120 gigawatts of power. "The new announcements are in addition to cancellations detailed last year," adds Forsythe. 

The 2020 target was set in November as part of a new five-year plan that limits coal to 55 percent of total electrical power generation.

"Overcapacity in coal power has pitted renewable energy and coal against each other in the grid and led to a substantial proportion of renewable power generation being wasted...," reported Lauri Myllyvirta for Energy Desk Greenpeace.

"Grid operators often favor power generated from coal plants over that made by wind and solar, and despite the cuts, China is still building far more capacity than it needs, " adds Forsythe. Furthermore, he casts doubt on whether some of the cancellations will actually be done.

Earlier, Forsythe reported on China investing "$360 billion on renewable energy by 2020," and contrasts that investment with the attitudes of President Trump and his environment and energy cabinet appointments, Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry, respectively, toward climate change. The result: "jobs that would have been created in the United States may instead go to Chinese workers."

Hat tip to David Underwood

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Published on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 in The New York Times
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