Beijing, where pollution averaged more than twice China’s national standard last year, will close the last of its four major coal-fired power plants next year.
The capital city will shutter China Huaneng Group Corp.’s 845-megawatt power plant in 2016, after last week closing plants owned by Guohua Electric Power Corp. and Beijing Energy Investment Holding Co., according to a statement Monday on the website of the city’s economic planning agency. A fourth major power plant, owned by China Datang Corp., was shut last year.
The facilities will be replaced by four gas-fired stations with capacity to supply 2.6 times more electricity than the coal plants.
The closures are part of a broader trend in China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter. Facing pressure at home and abroad, policy makers are racing to address the environmental damage seen as a byproduct of breakneck economic growth. 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.
Coal emissions are killing more than half a million Chinese people a year. The Chinese government now realizes it must do something, and do it fast, or there will be no more country to govern.
Also, don’t think for a minute that China is going coal free. 6 of the largest 10 coal-fired power plants in the world are in China, and they remain open. The smallest of them has a capacity of 4600 MW. The largest coal burner in the US is the Bowen Plant in Georgia, with a capacity of only 3499 MW.
But make no mistake, China is no longer relying on coal for new energy. The Beijing plant closures are symptoms of rapidly accelerating trend. This is more bad news for the US coal industry.