China had approved the construction of 106 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity in 2022, which was four times more than what had happened in 2021, and as a matter of fact, it remains the highest since 2015, driven by energy security considerations as per research.
According to the Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, more than 50 GW in terms of coal power capacity went ahead with construction across the country in a year that was more than half as large as the previous year.
As per GEM analyst Flora Champenois, the pace at which the projects have progressed when it came to permission for building in 2022 has been extraordinary, with numerous projects not only coming up and gaining licences but also obtaining funding as well as breaking ground in just a matter of months. The scale of new capacity that was connected to the new grid had slowed the pace in recent years due to a gradual decline when it came to new approvals as compared to the 2017–2020 period. Having said that, it is expected to rebound in the next few years due to concerns about power shortages.
Many of the freshly approved projects have been identified as supporting baseload capacity designed to make sure the stability of the power grid as well as minimise the blackout risk, according to the CREA-GEM report. That said, numerous projects are being built across regions that boast a clear capacity surplus, and therefore the power supply issues would be better taken care of by enhanced grid reliability and efficiency. In September 2021, there were a series of blackouts that China went through due to coal supply shortages, thereby affecting many factories. Also, due to a long drought that was witnessed last year, there was a dip in hydropower generation, leading to electricity rationing.
It is well to be noted that Beijing is trying to refuel its economy after growth and employment were hit by strict zero-COVID measures, raising concerns that the country’s low-carbon efforts may get sidelined. But interestingly, renewable power capacity levels have stayed at record levels, with 87 GW of solar installations in 2022, which are expected to rise further this year.
Apparently, China looks to bring its carbon dioxide emissions to a peak by the end of this decade; however, it remains to be seen what levels they are expected to reach.