China must push for the clean use of coal and step up integration of the dirty fuel with carbon capture, utilization and storage to achieve sustained reductions in emissions, industry experts have said.
An aerial view of a covered coal-processing facility that ensures clean and low-pollution operations in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, in May.
The country should take orderly measures to increase coal production and ensure sufficient power during peak hours and extreme weather, with clean coal playing an important role in stable electricity supply, said Shu Yinbiao, president of the International Electrotechnical Commission and an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
In addition to the rapid development of clean energy, the country must speed up the clean and low-carbon development of coal power and improve capacity for flexible regulation, he said.
According to the China Electricity Council, a trade body of power producers, enabling sufficient power supply is a major task for the country.
Both the installed capacity and generation of coal power are expected to increase by 2030, especially at the mega new energy bases and major power load centers, and this is expected to ensure domestic power supply and avoid possible shortfalls, it said, recommending energy saving and carbon reduction technologies, including CCUS.
The International Electrotechnical Commission estimates that by 2030, when China aims to peak carbon emissions, electricity generated from coal-fired power plants will reach 5.5 trillion kilowatt-hours, achieving peak coal consumption ahead of schedule.
Total electricity consumption will reach 11.8 trillion kWh by 2030, with installed power generation capacity standing at 4 billion kW, it said.
The China Electric Power Planning and Engineering Institute estimates that renewable energy will replace coal and become the main force of green electricity supply in the country by 2045 on optimized power supply capacity and accelerated transition to green energy sources.
The institute has called for accelerated augmentation of the power supply capacity in the next few years, including planning supportive coal-fired plants around huge wind and solar power generation centers to help boost the transmission of large-scale renewable energy.
Experts believe a new type of power system with increased integration of renewable energy sources to the power grid requires a gradual fall in the proportion of coal used, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to suddenly stop using coal.
A new type of power system refers to a modernized and updated version of the traditional system and involves the integration of renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power, with the power grid. It also involves the implementation of new technologies and energy storage systems to improve the efficiency, reliability and sustainability of the system.
While China has been developing wind, solar and hydropower on a large scale, clean coal remains strategically important to the country's energy mix and further ensures domestic power supply, said Luo Zuoxian, head of intelligence and research at the Sinopec Economics and Development Research Institute.
Shu of the International Electrotechnical Commission believes that even though there will be some expansion and capacity increase in coal-fired power to meet electricity demand in the next few years, the use of coal-fired power will fall over the long term and be phased out within 20 years.
Song Hailiang, chairman of China Energy Engineering Group, said the nation should accelerate the green transformation of its coal-generated electricity.
More efforts should be made to coordinate the planning of coal power plants, improve the long-term market mechanism for coal power, and vigorously promote technological innovation and energy efficiency in the sector, he said.
China has been making all-out efforts to guarantee stable and adequate electricity supply across the country this year, amid a backdrop of resumption of work and production, which leads to demand recovery.
Liang Changxin, spokesman of the National Energy Administration, said at a news conference in Beijing recently that this year, the country's electricity demand is expected to significantly increase from last year.
S&P Global Commodity Insights predicts that China will add about 45-50 GW of coal-fired generation capacity in 2023, and around 200 GW of renewable capacity.