China Coal Giant ‘Seizing’ Window of Opportunity for New Plants

China’s biggest coal company said it is “seizing” the opportunity to build more fossil fuel power plants before 2025 as the government prioritizes energy security after a series of power shortages.

China Shenhua Energy Co. has 11.75 gigawatts of coal and gas generation under construction and is reviewing previously postponed and suspended projects to see which can be revived under current conditions, General Manager Xu Mingjun said at a briefing on Friday. The company is also renovating and expanding existing plants and expects to put the new projects into operation by 2025, he said.

“As the country’s latest round of power system optimization progresses, the company is seizing the window of opportunity for thermal power development,” Xu said.

The comments were made amid a surge of approvals for new coal generation in China, the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Since the beginning of 2022, China has approved 152 gigawatts of new coal plants, Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said in a joint report last week. That’s more than all the coal plants in the European Union combined.

Intermittent Renewables
China has vowed to begin reducing emissions by 2030 at the latest, and become carbon-neutral by 2060. Climate experts have raised concerns that the time-line will allow the country’s industrial giants to build more polluting plants over the rest of this decade.

“The rush to build new coal power plants and coal-based industrial plants represents the mentality of ‘climbing to the peak,’” GEM and CREA analysts said in last week’s report. “Officials and executives in China see the next five years as a window of opportunity to add new carbon-intensive capacity.”
Chinese officials have countered that coal is shifting to a supporting role in the power system to fill the gaps left by the intermittent generation of rapidly growing wind and solar farms. Shenhua, a listed unit of China Energy Investment Corp., the country’s largest coal miner, said it’s investing in its fleet with that back-up role in mind. New and renovated plants will be able to operate as little as 20% of the time to operate as “peak shaving” units, Xu said.