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China’s Pandemic Recovery Drives Massive Boom In Coal Plants

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China is in the midst of a new coal boom, as approvals for coal-energy projects have accelerated this year in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Far from treating the coronavirus pandemic as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speed up decarbonization and lock in climate goals, there are signs China is falling back on its old playbook of pumping cheap credit into fossil-fuel-heavy energy projects to help the economy recover from a historic first-quarter contraction.

Following a dramatic plunge in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions at the start of the year, China’s energy sector is roaring back to life.

Daily consumption of coal, oil, and gas in June was on par with the previous year, according to the government, and analysts say carbon emissions have bounced back to pre-coronavirus levels.

It may still be too early to say where energy use and emissions are heading in 2020, but the environmental detox that followed months of sweeping lockdowns appears to be over.

China has 249.6 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity either under construction or in planning, according to Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air – which is larger than the current coal fleets of the United States or India.

In this year alone, China permitted 17.0GW of coal-fired power for construction, more than the previous two years combined, and the power sector has proposed some 40GW of new coal plants, the two groups said in a report in June.

The surge in new coal-fired power plant approvals is being driven in large part by a glut of local government infrastructure projects facilitated by easy access to bank loans and central government support for stimulus spending, analysts said. […]

But the acceleration of coal plant construction this year highlights the tension at the heart of China’s energy planning, one which often pits the strategic interests of Beijing against the immediate goals of cash-strapped provincial governments.

Read more at South China Morning Post

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