cloudyn.png
Thursday December 12th, 2019 10:09PM

China plans new coal plants, trims support for clean energy

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — As world leaders gather in Spain to discuss how to slow the warming of the planet, a spotlight falls on China — the top emitter of greenhouse gases.

China burns about half the coal used globally each year. Between 2000 and 2018, its annual carbon emissions nearly tripled, and it now accounts for about 30% of the world’s total. Yet it’s also the leading market for solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles, and it manufactures about two-thirds of solar cells installed worldwide.

“We are witnessing many contradictions in China’s energy development,” said Kevin Tu, a Beijing-based fellow with the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “It’s the largest coal market and the largest clean energy market in the world.”

That apparent paradox is possible because of the sheer scale of China’s energy demands.

But as China’s economy slows to the lowest level in a quarter century — around 6% growth, according to government statistics — policymakers are doubling down on support for coal and other heavy industries, the traditional backbones of China’s energy system and economy. At the same time, the country is reducing subsidies for renewable energy.

At the annual United Nations climate summit, this year in Madrid, government representatives will put the finishing touches on implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set a goal to limit future warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Nations may decide for themselves how to achieve it.

China had previously committed to shifting its energy mix to 20% renewables, including nuclear and hydroelectric energy. Climate experts generally agree that the initial targets pledged in Paris will not be enough to reach the goal, and next year nations are required to articulate more ambitious targets.

Hopes that China would offer to do much more are fading.

Recent media reports and satellite images suggest that China is building or planning to complete new coal power plants with total capacity of 148 gigawatts — nearly equal to the entire coal-power capacity of the European Union within the next few years, according to an analysis by Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

Separately, investment in China’s renewable energy dropped almost 40 percent in the first half of 2019 compared with the same period last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research organization. The government slashed subsidies for solar energy.

Last week in Beijing, China’s vice minister of ecology and environment told reporters that non-fossil-fuel sources already account for 14.3% of the country’s energy mix. He did not indicate that China would embrace more stringent targets soon.

“We are still faced with challenges of developing our economy, improving people’s livelihood,” Zhao Yingmin said.

China is alternately cast as the world’s worst climate villain or its potential clean-energy savior, but both superlatives are somewhat misplaced.

As a fast-growing economy, it was always inevitable that China’s energy demands would climb steeply. The only question was whether the country could power a sufficiently large portion of its economy with renewables to curb emissions growth.

Many observers took hope from a brief dip in China’s carbon emissions between 2014 and 2016, as well as Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s statement in 2017 that China had "taken a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change."

Today the country’s renewed focus on coal comes as a disappointment.

“Now there’s a sense that rather than being a leader, China is the one that is out of step,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki. He notes that several developed countries — including Germany, South Korea and the United States — are rapidly reducing their reliance on coal power.

Fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline and natural gas release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat and changing the climate. Coal is the biggest culprit.

Last year, coal consumption in the United States hit the lowest level in nearly 40 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

One place to consider the rise, pause and rise again of China’s coal sector is Shanxi province — a vast mountainous region in central China.

Shanxi is the heart of China’s traditional coal country, dotted with large mines, but also the site of some of the country’s largest solar and wind-power projects, according to state media.

During most of the past 30 years of rapid economic growth, the coal business boomed in Shanxi and nearby provinces. As China’s cities and industries expanded, coal supplied much of that power, and China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s top carbon emitter in 2006.

But after climbing sharply for two decades, China’s emissions stalled around 2013 and then declined slightly in 2015 and 2016, according to Global Carbon Budget, which tracks emissions worldwide. This dip came as Chinese leaders declared a “war on pollution” and suspended the construction of dozens of planned coal power plants, including some in Shanxi.

At the same time, the government required many existing coal operators to install new equipment in smokestacks to remove sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and other hazardous substances. About 80% of coal plants now have scrubbers, said Alvin Lin, Beijing-based China climate and energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit.

As a result, the air quality in many Chinese cities, including Beijing, improved significantly between 2013 and 2017. Residents long accustomed to wearing face masks and running home air-filter machines enjoyed a reprieve of more “blue sky days,” as low-pollution days are known in China.

Annual levels of PM 2.5 — a tiny but dangerous pollutant — dropped by roughly a third across China between 2013 and 2017, from 61.8 to 42 micrograms per cubic meter, according to scientists at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and other institutions. They made the report in November in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal.

“That’s a big improvement, although in terms of safe air quality, we’re still not there yet,” Lin said. China’s pollution levels are still well above standards set by the World Health Organization.

While these retrofitted coal plants emit fewer pollutants that harm human health, the scrubbers do not reduce greenhouse gases. “The new plants are good for air quality, but you still have all that carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere,” Lin said.

In the past three years, China’s carbon emissions have begun to rise again, according to Global Carbon Budget.

That trend was evident in the first half of 2019, when China’s carbon emissions from fossil fuels and concrete production rose 4%, compared with the same period last year, according to Myllyvirta’s preliminary analysis of Chinese government data.

The coming winter in Beijing may see a return of prolonged smog, as authorities loosen environmental controls on heavy industry — in part to compensate for other slowing sectors in the economy. Cement and steel production remain both energy intensive and heavily polluting.

Permits for new coal plants proliferated after regulatory authority was briefly devolved from Beijing to provincial governments, which see construction projects and coal operations as boosts to local economies and tax bases, said Ted Nace, executive director of Global Energy Monitor.

“It’s as though a boa constructor swallowed a giraffe, and now we’re watching that bulge move through the system,” said Nace. In China, it takes about three years to build a coal plant.

In November, Premier Li Keqiang gave a speech to policymakers emphasizing the importance of domestic coal to energy security.

But because China’s coal-power expansion is growing faster than energy demand, overcapacity “is a serious concern now,” said Columbia University’s Tu.

And once new infrastructure is built, it’s hard to ignore.

“It will be politically difficult to tear down a brand-new coal plant that’s employing people and supporting a mining operation. It will make it more difficult for China to transition away from coal,” Nace said.

The world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius. All scenarios envisioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for holding planetary warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius involve steep worldwide reductions in coal-power generation.

In that effort, other countries rely on China to manufacture most of the solar panels installed worldwide, according to an analysis in the journal Science co-authored by Jonas Nahm, an energy expert at Johns Hopkins University.

“If we have any chance to meet climate targets, we have to do a lot by 2030 — and we won’t be able to do it without China’s clean-energy supply chain,” Nahm said.

China’s manufacturing helped bring down the cost of solar panels by 80% between 2008 and 2013. Prices for wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries also dropped significantly, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“China has a really mixed record. On the one hand, it’s seen rapidly rising emissions over the past two decades,” Nahm said. “On the other hand, it’s shown it’s able to innovate around manufacturing — and make new energy technologies available at scale, faster and cheaper.”

___

Follow Christina Larson on Twitter www.twitter.com/larsonchristina

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Key points from new wave of Catholic abuse lawsuits
Key points from new wave of sex abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church
1:08AM ( 5 minutes ago )
China plans new coal plants, trims support for clean energy
China retreats on clean energy investment, plans more coal-burning power plants
1:07AM ( 6 minutes ago )
A look at 15 states making it easier to sue over sex abuse
Fifteen states have revised their laws in the past two years to allow sex abuse claims stretching back decades
1:04AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Watson throws 3 TDs, catches another; Texans top Pats 28-22
Deshaun Watson threw three touchdown passes and had the first TD reception of his career, and the Houston Texans frustrated Tom Brady in a 28-22 victory over the New England Patriots
11:55PM ( 1 hour ago )
UN chief warns of ‘point of no return’ on climate change
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the world’s efforts to stop climate change have been “utterly inadequate" so far and warns that “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon.”
11:33PM ( 1 hour ago )
Death toll put at 20 for Mexico cartel attack near US border
Mexican officials say security forces have killed 14 members of a presumed cartel assault force that rolled into a town near the Texas border and staged an hour-long attack
10:36PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Rescuers search for girl, 6, missing after truck swept away
Rescuers with helicopters, drones, boats and dogs are searching for a 6-year-old girl missing since a truck she was in was swept away while attempting to cross an Arizona creek swollen by runoff
10:32PM ( 2 hours ago )
Deadly storm moves cross country taking aim at Northeast
Hundreds of flights have been canceled and thousands delayed for travelers heading home after the Thanksgiving holiday as a deadly winter storm moved to the Northeast, packing one last punch of snow and ice
10:00PM ( 3 hours ago )
White House says it won’t participate in impeachment hearing
‘Baseless and highly partisan’: White House declares it won’t participate in the first impeachment hearings before the House Judiciary Committee
8:40PM ( 4 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Asian stocks rise after China factory activity improves
Asian stocks rise after Chinese factory activity improves ahead of possible US tariff hike
11:59PM ( 1 hour ago )
With prime minister out, Iraq in constitutional ‘black hole’
Iraqi parliament accepts prime minister’s resignation, confronts constitutional ‘black hole’
3:25PM ( 9 hours ago )
‘Frozen 2’ ices competition again with record Thanksgiving
“Frozen 2” kept a wintry wind at its back in its second week, setting a Thanksgiving record with a whopping box office bounty
2:23PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Business
New EU leaders take office vowing to tackle climate change
A new team of leaders has taken office at the helm of the European Union, putting climate change at the top of their to-do list and vowing to foster EU unity as Britain prepares to leave
10:55AM ( 14 hours ago )
Black Friday kicks off scramble in a shorter shopping season
A shorter holiday shopping season means a more intense scramble for both retailers and customers
4:05PM ( 2 days ago )
US stocks close out half-day session with broad losses
Stocks fell broadly on Wall Street Friday following a shortened trading session a day after the Thanksgiving holiday that left the market slightly below its record highs
3:19PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Merry Clickmas: Black Friday online sales hit record $7.4B
This year’s Black Friday was the biggest ever for online sales, totaling $7.4 billion
6:30AM ( 18 hours ago )
Fiat Chrysler, auto union reach tentative deal on contract
The United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract
12:53PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Source: Fiat Chrysler, auto union close to contract deal
A person briefed on the matter says bargainers for the United Auto Workers union and Fiat Chrysler are close to reaching a tentative deal on a new four-year contract
10:49AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Economy
Greece to ask for NATO’s support in dispute with Turkey
Greece’s prime minister says he will ask other NATO members at the alliance’s London summit to support Greece in the face of fellow member Turkey’s attempts to encroach on Greek sovereignty
11:15AM ( 13 hours ago )
Paradise’s dream football season ends 1 year after fire
A Northern California community is rallying around its local high school football team after it lost a championship game one year after a deadly wildfire destroyed most of the town.
3:13AM ( 22 hours ago )
California high school competes for title after deadly fire
A Northern California high school football team has lost its bid for a championship one year after a deadly fire destroyed most of their town and most of the players and coaches lost their homes
12:20AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Industries
Judge keeps California law on utilities paying fire damages
A U.S. bankruptcy court judge has upheld a California law forcing utilities to pay for all damages when their equipment causes wildfires
8:12PM ( 4 days ago )
Officials: Iraq protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf
Anti-government protesters burn down an Iranian consulate building in southern Iraq, while six protesters were killed by security forces who fired live rounds amid ongoing violence
3:19PM ( 4 days ago )
Anti-government protesters burn down Iranian consulate
Anti-government protesters burned down the Iranian consulate building in southern Iraq, while six protesters were killed by security forces who fired live rounds amid ongoing violence
2:33PM ( 4 days ago )
AP Business - Utilities
Key points from new wave of Catholic abuse lawsuits
Key points from new wave of sex abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church
1:08AM ( 6 minutes ago )
A look at 15 states making it easier to sue over sex abuse
Fifteen states have revised their laws in the past two years to allow sex abuse claims stretching back decades
1:04AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Shelley Morrison, Rosario on ‘Will & Grace,’ dies at 83
Shelley Morrison, an actress with a 50-year career who was best known for playing a memorable maid on “Will & Grace,” has died
12:56AM ( 18 minutes ago )
House impeachment report coming ahead of landmark hearing
House impeachment report on President Donald Trump to be unveiled Monday behind closed doors for key lawmakers
12:52AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Democrats aim to catch up to Trump’s 2020 cash advantage
Democrats are narrowing President Donald Trump’s early spending advantage ahead of next year’s election
12:26AM ( 48 minutes ago )