China Way Ahead in New Coal Plant Construction, New Report

China Way Ahead in New Coal Plant Construction, New Report
Photo by Dominik Vanyi / Unsplash

China has allowed the construction of more coal power plants in 2022 than any other time in the last seven years, reaching roughly two new coal power plants every week, a recent report revealed.

The Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air report showed that while much of the world is moving away from coal, China has quadrupled the number of new coal power plant approvals in 2022 compared to 2021.

Flora Champenois, a coal research analyst at the Global Energy Monitor and one of the report's co-authors, said China seems to be accelerating its efforts. "We observed that China has commenced the construction of six times more plants than the rest of the world combined," she explained to NPR.

The persistent drought and the unprecedented heat wave last summer, which experts say was caused by climate change, seem to be driving the increase in permits for new coal plants.

The heat wave led to a surge in demand for air conditioning, caused grid disruptions, led to the drying up of rivers, and a decrease in hydropower, experts said.

The report revealed that China is leading the world in the construction of new solar and wind projects, while simultaneously building more coal plants than any other country.

Ryna Cui, the assistant research director at the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, highlighted government and industry justifications. The new coal plants will serve as backup support for renewable energy, as well as during periods of high electricity demand, such as heat waves.

According to Champenois, the increase in permits last year could be China's coal industry taking advantage of a final opportunity to secure funding for new coal plants, which are becoming progressively less economically viable compared to renewable energy sources.

There are questions on how the surge will affect China’s goals to reduce emissions, considering it is the world's biggest emitter of fossil fuels. But experts said it’s too early to judge.