Beijing opts for gas power as last coal plant retired

Beijing’s government has presided over the closure of the Huangneng Beijing coal-fired power plant, switcLi Keqianghing entirely to gas power, as the city looks to tackle its air pollution problem.

The decision came soon after Chinese premier Li Keqiang promised to “make our skies blue again” in his state-of-the-nation speech.

According to state news agency Xinhua, Beijing has become the country’s first city to have all its power plants fuelled by natural gas, an objective laid out in 2013 in the capital’s five-year clean air action plan.

The Huangneng plant is the fourth to be closed and replaced by gas-fired power centres between 2013 and 2017, cutting nearly 10 million tonnes in coal emissions annually.

Mr Li told a press conference, “We may not be able to control the weather, but we can adjust our behaviour and our way of development. Blue skies should no longer be a luxury, nor will they be.”

Market analysts ICIS say the move is in line with the Chinese government’s stated aim of reducing emissions. However it does not mean coal power is being consigned to the past in China, as it ‘wouldn’t make economic sense.’

Sisi Tang, Senior Analyst for China Carbon Markets at ICIS, told Power Engineering International, “We see this decision as one of Beijing’s continuing efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Beijing targets to reduce its carbon intensity (CO2 emission per unit GDP) by 20.5 per cent in the 13th five-year-plan (2016-2020), one of the most stringent targets among all the provinces/cities in China.”

“Phasing out coal-fired power plants is also a widely seen practice in other cities and provinces. For example, the neighbouring Tianjin and Hebei both include shutting down coal plants or switching to gas in their 2017 efforts to reduce coal consumption and emission.à‚  However, in the short term we do not expect fuel switch/ coal phase-out to happen on a very large scale, because it does not make economic sense.”

“China is committed to reduce its own emissions and take the global leadership role on climate change.à‚  The emissions trading scheme, which is scheduled to commence this year, is a critical market-based measure China plans to take to curb emissions. We expect to see more emissions reductions through cleaner coal and fuel switch across China, as a result of regulatory arrangements or market incentives.”

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