China approved 15 gigawatts of new coal-fired power capacity and another 30 million tonnes of coal-based iron-making capacity in the first half of this year, despite falling power and steel demand over the period, new research showed on Wednesday.
China approved around $26-33 billion in investment in the coal power and steel sectors in the first six months, raising the risk of more stranded assets as it races to meet its carbon goals, said the report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and Global Energy Monitor (GEM).
“Although the ramp-up of coal might be a short-term policy adjustment, it poses a risk to China’s long-term climate commitments,” said Xinyi Shen, a CREA researcher.
China has been approving more coal projects after a wave of power shortages paralysed large parts of the economy last year.
But instead of building more plants, China needs to create a more flexible electricity system and boost storage to help distribute power where it is needed, the CREA-GEM report said.
Chinese coal production over the first eight months of the year reached 2.93 billion tonnes, up 11% on the same period last year, offsetting a decline in imports. The country has also raised annual production capacity at its coal mines by 490 million tonnes since last year.
China’s total power generation capacity had reached 2,466 gigawatts (GW) by the end of August, up 8% on the same period last year.
The increase was driven mostly by new solar and wind power installations, with total solar capacity rising 27% to 349.9 GW. Coal-fired power also inched up by around 1% to 1,110 GW, according to official data.
China has been talking up its achievements on climate and criticising other countries for backtracking ahead of a new round of global negotiations set to begin in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt in November.
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