Global Energy Monitor, Greenpeace India, and the Sierra Club have just released the fifth annual Boom and Bust report, tracking the global coal plant pipeline. The news is mostly good, with three glaring exceptions, all related to China.
First, as reported last year, provincial governments appear to have restarted construction on a number of coal-fired power plants, previously suspended on the orders of the central government. Second, the China Electricity Council, which represents the country’s power utilities, has proposed setting the country’s coal capacity cap at 1,300 gigawatts, a level that would allow 290 gigawatts of new capacity to be added—more than the entire coal fleet of the U.S. (259 gigawatts). Finally, Chinese financial institutions, mostly state-owned are the last large scale backers of coal-fired projects at a global level.
It remains to be seen how this will play out. Perhaps the central govenment will pull the provinces and state-owned enterprises into line and override the Electricity Council.
The bigger lesson here is that even though China is well on the way to becoming a personal dictatorship of Xi Jinping, and despite the supposedly Leninist organization of the Communist party he leads (the official phrase is “democratic centralism“) most of the real power in the country is exercised by local magnates, just as it was in the days of warlord rule. That seems to be characteristic of dictatorship.
Over the fold, the good news
The findings include
a 20% drop in newly completed coal plants (53% in the past three years), a 39% drop in new construction starts (84% in the past three years), and a 24% drop in plants in pre-construction activity (69% over the past three years) year-on-year.
Coal plant retirements continued at a record pace.
Developments in India are particularly encouraging. India is now adding more solar and wind than coal, and hardly any new permits are being issued. The idea that India is desperate for more Australian coal is being proved false.