Thursday, April 23, 2015

Here’s What China Closing Coal-Power Plants Means for Emissions

Smoke billows from a coal fired power plant in Beijing. Air pollution has attracted more public attention in the past few years as heavy smog envelops swathes of the nation including Beijing and Shanghai. (Photographer Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
China’s recent scrapping of small coal plants will avoid the release of as much as 11.4 million metric tons annually of climate-warming carbon dioxide, helping the country cut emissions for the first time in more than a decade.

The impact is a sign of what’s to come as China pushes for a cap on coal and moves to shutter, or refit, its dirtiest coal-burning power plants.  China overhauled or scrapped as much as 3.3 gigawatts of the facilities in 2014, according to a March statement from the National Bureau of Statistics.

The reduction in greenhouse gases assumes most of the capacity was retired because it doesn’t meet current standards and estimates that the plants annually used 5.2 million tons of coal, producing 2.2 million tons of carbon emissions per million ton of coal, according to estimates from Sophie Lu, a Beijing-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“China has tightened environmental protection and has taken measures to close small plants that don’t meet the standards for the environment and replaced them with less-polluting bigger plants,” said Sun Weifeng, a Shanghai-based analyst from Yuanta Securities HK Co.  “This may not have a significant impact in the short term but will be very meaningful in the long run.”
Fuel Sources
“Carbon emissions could still be growing in the years to come but at a decreasing rate,” BNEF’s Lu said.

Coal contributes 44 percent of global greenhouse gases, according to the International Energy Agency.  China gets about 64 percent of its primary energy from the fossil fuel, data from the National Energy Administration show.

The closures are part of China’s plans to close as much as 20 gigawatts of capacity that doesn’t meet environmental standards in the five years ending in December.  China has already shut 18 gigawatts, according to Greenpeace.
China is expected to close another 60 gigawatts with facilities that are more efficient between 2016 to 2020, though three times as many plants are scheduled to be built using newer technology, BNEF’s Lu said.  New plants will produce about 90 percent fewer pollutants such as dust and sulfur dioxide per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated, she said.
China’s emissions of carbon dioxide fell last year for the first time in more than 10 years, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimate based on preliminary energy demand data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

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