China authorized the construction of 8.63 gigatonnes (GW) of coal power in the first quarter of this year, almost half the amount permitted for the whole year of 2021, according to environmental organization Greenpeace on Wednesday.
China has pledged to severely regulate coal power capacity between 2021 and 2025 in order to reduce its world-leading climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Its new project development also slowed last year.
However, escalating energy supply concerns, fueled in part by a series of power outages last September, have prompted an increase in permissions, with provincial officials trying to address “shortcomings in local power generation” according to Greenpeace, citing approval papers.
“Energy security has become a sort of code word for coal, rather than for reliable supply of energy,” said Wu Jinghan, a Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner in Beijing.
The National Energy Administration of China did not react quickly to a faxed request for comment.
China’s intentions to build coal-fired power plants were a key bone of contention during last year’s global climate negotiations in Glasgow, when nations decided to “phase down” rather than “phase out” global coal consumption.
Beijing, the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, has already vowed to reduce use, but only after 2025, and State Grid analysts have suggested that 150 gigatonnes of additional coal generating capacity may be developed before then.
According to China Electricity Council predictions issued this month, overall power generating capacity in China is predicted to reach 3,000 GW by 2025, with fossil fuel sources accounting for 49 percent, meaning a 261 GW increase in coal- and natural gas-fired power compared to the end of last year.
Though China is increasing wind and solar power capacity, Wu believes that increasing coal capacity would make it more difficult for renewable projects to connect to networks and reach customers.
“The energy market gets warped around coal,” she said.