No new coal power plants ‘in principle’

On 28 February, the National Energy Administration (NEA) suggested it will “further clarify the strict control of coal power plant projects, and in principle not [permit] the construction of any new coal power plants designed exclusively for electricity generation.” 

The NEA was responding to proposals made at last year’s “Twin Sessions” meetings of top legislators, on the role of coal power in 2021–2025, in the context of China reaching carbon neutrality by 2060.

The response leaves space, however, for new co-generation coal-powered facilities, such as plants that generate both power and heat, which are commonly used in energy-intensive industrial processes. It also permits the construction of new coal power plants for electricity generation “to a certain extent”, in order to ensure stability in the power system. No further details are given on the space left for approving coal power plants.

Last year saw a total freeze on coal power plant approval. However, 33GW worth of coal power capacity, which had ben approved pre-2021, did enter construction, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. So far this year, five new coal power plants, with a total capacity of 7.3GW, have received construction approval.

The NEA’s response comes against a backdrop of increasing financial difficulties for coal power plants amid rising coal prices. Last year, Datang Power, one of China’s largest state-owned power producers, lossed a net 9.7–11.6 billion yuan (US$1.5–1.8 billion), according to China Energy News. Coal prices are surging to historic highs this week as markets react to the sanctions placed on Russia, the world’s third largest coal exporter.

In its response, the NEA also stated its “active support” for the further development of hydro, solar and wind power, and the development of transmission links between provinces.