As most countries actively try to reduce the amount of electricity produced from coal fired power plants, China have added enough electricity produced from coal power to power over 31 million homes in the last 18 months.
This comes from a study which has also stated that China is currently in the process of bringing back enough coal power to equal the whole of the EUs generating capacity.
Not only is China increasing its own coal power plants but it is also thought that they are funding about a quarter of all coal plants outside of its border.
This large increase in coal power plants threatens the Paris climate targets.
China used coal power plants between 2006 and 2015 as a major steppingstone in helping the nation’s economy develop, which ended up leading to a programme in which they aimed to build a new plant every week.
Not surprisingly building so many coal power plants had many negative effects. Chinese cities became very polluted and ended up at a massive over capacity. This meant many plants were only able to run at about 50% of the time.
The Chinese government tried to fix this issue in 2015 by clamping down on new build coal fired power plants. However, mistakenly they still allowed provincial governments the power to issue permits for new coal power plants.
This meant local governments issued 5 times the number of permits than any other comparable time period.
Researchers from the study have concluded that from all of 2016 through till June 2019, all countries except China cut their total coal capacity by 8.1 gigawatts, whilst during the same period of time China added 43 gigawatts of power. Furthermore, the researchers say that the total coal power to be brought back or currently in build will be around 147.7 gigawatts. This number equals the whole coal generating capacity as the European Union.
In comparison with the rest of the world, China is currently constructing 50% more coal fired power plants than what are currently being built in every other country in the world.
At the current rate China will be producing 1100 gigawatts of electricity generated by coal power plants by the year 2020.
The Chinese government does want to reduce its reliance on coal fired power plants, and has made some progress in this. From 2012 to 2018 the total share of Chinas electricity produced from coal power plants reduced from 68% to 59%. However, even though the share has reduced, absolute coal consumption has increased as there have been increased energy demands.
Even though the government might want to rely less on coal, the main issue is that coal and electricity industry groups within the country have been pushing for an increase in the nation’s overall capacity produced from coal.
It’s not only the increase of the total coal capacity within the country that’s concerning researchers, but also the large amounts of funding China is providing for coal-based projects outside its borders. China is financing over a quarter of coal-based projects outside its borders in places such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and South Africa.
Observers are worried that these investments do not make sense economically as it is a step in the wrong direction for reducing climate change.
The major concern from all this extra coal-based electricity production is how it will go on to effect the Paris climate agreements. Researchers believe that China will have to reduce its coal power capacity by over 40% by 2030 so that temperatures do not rise more than the agreed 2 degrees Celsius.