BEIJING, April 30 China added nearly 40 percent
less coal- and gas-fired power capacity in the first quarter
than it did a year ago mainly due to stronger pollution controls
and slower economic growth, a senior government advisor said on
China, the biggest global emitter of gases that cause
climate change and plagued by air quality that causes half a
million deaths a year, consumes nearly half the world's coal.
But recent data released by the National Energy
Administration (NEA) showed that newly installed coal and gas
power capacity in China fell 38.9 percent in the first quarter
compared to the same period last year, a sign that the share of
fossil fuels in the energy mix are slowly coming down.
New renewable energy and nuclear capacity grew in the same
period. Since the beginning of last year, non-fossil fuels have
accounted for nearly 60 percent of new power capacity.
"The reduction in coal-fired capacity is due to the economic
slowdown," Li Junfeng, director general at government think-tank
the National Center of Climate Change Strategy, told Reuters.
"But the reduction is also a result of the crackdown on air
pollution," Li told Reuters.
China's GDP grew by 7.4 percent in the first three months of
the year, a notable drop from levels seen in the last decade.
In a bid to curb smog levels in the nation's main urban
centres, the government has banned construction of new coal
plants in the Beijing-Hebei-Tianjin region in northern China,
and in the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas.
Coal capacity makes up most of China's thermal fuel power
According to Li, 75 percent of the investments in the power
sector last year flowed to non-fossil fuel projects, including
hydro, solar and nuclear plants.
"Over the past several years, the share of thermal
generation ... has been declining steadily. With the slowdown in
economic growth and the requirements for air quality
improvement, investment in thermal generation could decline
further," said Wang Wanxing, the utility programme director of
think-tank The Energy Foundation.
Government data shows that coal-fired power generation
continues to grow in absolute terms - 4.7 percent in the first
quarter - as China continues to consume more and more energy.
But in comparison, nuclear power rose by 16.3 percent
year-on-year in over the same period, hydro by 9.7 percent and
wind by 9.5 percent.
China hopes to bring coal's share of total energy
consumption to below 65 percent this year, two years ahead of
schedule, and continues to shut down old, inefficient coal
plants and factories to mute energy waste.
Last year, coal's share of the energy mix was 69.6 percent,
the first time it had dropped below 70 percent in 35 years.
(Reporting by Stian Reklev and Kathy Chen; Editing by Tom