The State Council, China's cabinet, decided to transform the country's coal-fired power plants towards low-emission and energy-conserving ones in an executive meeting held on Wednesday, in order to reduce energy consumption and combat air pollutants that have caused the toxic haze hitting many areas of China.
-- Lower emissions, lower energy consumption targeted
According to the meeting, the existed power plants across China must cut average coal consumption to below 310 grams per kilowatt-hour by 2020, and newly built plants to below 300 g/kwh. The eastern and central areas must achieve the goal in advance, in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The power plants of 6,000 kilowatts and above consumed 318 g/kwh standard coal on average in 2014, according to data from China Electricity Council. Meanwhile, the meeting required coal-fired units discharge air pollutants no more than gas turbine units. According to the requirements issued in 2014, under the benchmark oxygen content of 6 percent, a gas turbine unit must discharge no more than 10 mg per cubic meter of smoke and dust, 35 mg/m3 of sulfur dioxide, and 50 mg/m3 of nitrogen oxides by 2020.
-- Necessary to promote utilization of clean coal
By 2014, coal accounted for 60 percent of China's primary energy consumption. According to a report released in early 2015, combustion of fossil energy, mainly in the form of coal, contributed 70 percent of China's smoke and dust emissions, 85 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions and 67 percent of nitrogen oxides emissions.
Power generation accounts for nearly half of Chinese coal consumption, and China plans to enhance the ratio to more than 60 percent by 2020. It can be concluded that coal will remain the most important energy for China for a long time in the future.
Thus, it is crucial for China to promote utilization of clean coal in order to combat air pollution. It is estimated China would save 100 million tonnes of coal consumption and reduce carbon dioxide emission by 180 million tonnes after the transformation work completes, and the overall pollutants generated by the power industry would lower by 60 percent.
-- Mission not impossible
The goal of completing the transformation of coal-fired units across China by 2020 is not difficult to fulfill, said an expert. In September 2014, the Chinese government issued a plan of transforming coal-fired units with total capacities of 150 million kilowatts by 2020. Since then, major power generators of China had started the transformation work.
Some 80 percent of China's power plants are profitable and can afford to invest in such transformation work for environmental protection, said Chen Zongfa, head of the legal affairs of China Huadian Corporation. Meanwhile, the State Council's executive meeting on Wednesday also decided that the central and local governments would provide favorable policies and conditions in terms of credit loans and bond issuing to support power plants to invest in the transformation work.
According to estimates made by China Merchants Securities, last year's plan that involves 150 million-kilowatt units can bring about investments of 40.5 billion yuan in the transformation work, while now a nationwide movement is expected to boost even more investments.