China begins to suspend coal-fired power plant approvals, Greenpeace response

Press release - 2016-03-24
Beijing, 24 March, 2016 - Chinese media today reported that the country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has ordered 13 provincial governments to suspend approvals of new coal-fired power plant projects until the end of 2017. [1] Another group of 15 provinces has been ordered to delay new construction of projects that have already been approved. Greenpeace East Asia’s initial assessment of the implications of the rules indicates that up to 250 coal-fired power plant projects with a total of 170 gigawatts of capacity could be affected if the rules are fully implemented.

“China is finally beginning to clamp down on its out of control coal power bubble,” said Greenpeace’s senior campaigner on coal, Lauri Myllyvirta. “However, these new measures fall far short of even halting the build-up of overcapacity in coal-fired power generation, let alone beginning to reduce it.”

At least 570 projects with 300 gigawatts of capacity could still come online. [2] This is despite the fact that in the document reportedly sent to provincial governments the NEA state that China’s overcapacity in coal-fired power has reached 20%.

In an important policy signal in the run-up to the new five-year plan for the energy sector, the NEA acknowledges that plans for coal industry expansion in China’s western provinces are excessive compared to electricity demand in the eastern provinces, and should be slowed down.

Greenpeace has highlighted China’s growing coal power capacity bubble in recent reports and investigations. In 2015 alone, 210 coal-fired power plant projects with a total capacity of 168 gigawatts were moving through the approval pipeline. [3] Driven by distorted incentives and a lack of financial oversight, power companies have continued to add enormous amounts of coal-fired capacity, even as demand for power generation from coal has plummeted as a result of slower power demand growth and the successful expansion of renewable energy.

 

[1] Original report in Chinese media available here: http://news.bjx.com.cn/html/20160324/718971.shtml

[2] Based on data from ‘Boom and Bust’, an upcoming report by Greenpeace, CoalSwarm and Sierra Club, to be released 30 March 2016.

[3] From Greenpeace East Asia’s report ‘Is China Doubling Down on its Coal Power Bubble’, available here: http://www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/publications/reports/climate-energy/2016/coal-power-bubble-update/

Media contact:

Tom Baxter,
International Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia,
email:
phone: +86 188 1134 4861

Lauri Myllyvirta
Senior Campaigner, Coal, Greenpeace
email:
phone: +86 157 1002 1563

Greenpeace International Press Desk
email: ,
phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

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