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China faces persistent challenge tackling false power plant emissions data

A significant proportion of coal and gas-fired power plants in China are deliberately falsifying their emissions data, despite concerted efforts by the government to clamp down on the practice.

Reuters reports that Beijing is struggling to reduce the pollution plaguing its cities and part of the problem has been isolated as widespread misreporting of harmful gas emissions by Chinese electricity firms.

Although said to be a minority, the offenders are, according to the news agency report, motivated to distort the figures due to ‘crippling overcapacity and slowing demand growth’.
As a result government threats of heavy fines or forced closures have failed to deter. Coal emission violations cost power producers $98m in lost subsidies and fines last year.

The environment ministry said last month, “a minority of firms were still manipulating emissions control equipment and falsifying data in an attempt to avoid supervision”.

An unnamed source told Reuters that power companies that also provided heating for local communities could overstate the amount of coal used for heat generation, which is not subject to direct monitoring, and understate the amount used for power.

In its latest bid to curb pollution, China’s cabinet in December ordered all coal-fired power firms to reduce pollutants like sulphur dioxide by 60 percent by 2020, saying it would close inefficient plants and promote advanced low-emissions technology through subsidies.

As an incentive, it offered increased payments to generators that upgrade facilities, with total subsidies estimated to be worth $6.4bn a year.