Plans for new coal plants have steadily increased since 2019, after the central government began relaxing restrictions on new coal plant development.
China currently has 249.6 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity under development (97.8 GW under construction and 151.8 GW in planning), a 21 percent increase over end-2019 (205.9 GW).
The amount of capacity under development (249.6 GW) is larger than the coal fleets of the United States (246.2 GW) or India (229.0 GW).
After years of putting the brakes on the amount of coal plants newly proposed and permitted for construction, China is again stepping on the gas, according to a survey of coal plant development in China from January 1 to June 15 by Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
More coal plants are also advancing in the permitting process. From January 1 to June 15 of this year, China permitted 17 GW of new coal-fired capacity for construction, more than the amount permitted in all of 2018 and 2019 combined (12.0 GW).
Construction also began on 11 GW of new coal plants, indicating that the surge in new projects is happening mainly on paper, for now.
Even China’s state-owned holding company SDIC, which said in 2019 that it planned to exit the coal industry, sponsored 3.2 GW of new coal plants in 2020 – in what appears to be an unstated reversal in policy. Nearly half (7.9 GW) of the 17 GW permitted in 2020 are reportedly to power long-distance transmission lines from coal and renewable power plants in the West to demand centres on the coast, meaning the remaining coal power will simply add to the country’s coal overcapacity crisis.
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