Twenty cancellations since China’s no overseas coal power pledge

Researchers at Greenpeace East Asia have released an analysis of China’s overseas coal power projects one year after its pledge to stop building new such projects.

The analysis, published in financial outlet Caijing, finds that 20 projects with Chinese participation, accounting for 10.07GW of generating capacity, have been officially cancelled since the pledge. There are still 77 projects (28.5GW) being planned, 65 (28.38GW) under construction and 68 (23.79GW) on hold. 

Among the 20 cancelled projects, four each are in Saudi Arabia (2.4GW in total) and Nigeria (0.6GW). Bangladesh, India, Mongolia, Vietnam and Pakistan each have two, with the remaining one in South Africa (the hugely contentious Musina Makhado).

The authors note that 11 of the cancelled projects had been put on hold before the pledge, and five were at the planning stage. Projects in these states, the authors suggest, are generally more precarious than those already under construction. They urge the investors of the 77 projects being planned and 68 on hold to recognise the risks and move early to quit or transform them away from coal.

The authors find that even after the pledge last year, some Chinese companies are still taking part in new overseas coal power projects. In particular, they point to two companies signing up to the Nam Phan project in Laos this year. The authors suggest the lack of clarity in the 2021 pledge, including the exact meaning of “new construction” (新建), has contributed to such anomalies. 

The majority of the 20 cancellations are due to “positive chain reactions after China’s pledge”, according to the authors.

Alternative cancellation counts do exist. A report published by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air in September put the number at 26 (21GW), but that includes projects currently on hold. The center found that the majority of cancellations have been initiated by host countries due to poor project economics, legal challenges, local resistance, or delays in securing financing or permits.

Read China Dialogue’s guest analysis on what needs to be done one year after China’s no overseas coal power pledge.