Thursday, July 18, 2024
HomeClimate WatchThe climate scaremongers: Full steam ahead for China’s coal-fired power stations

The climate scaremongers: Full steam ahead for China’s coal-fired power stations


IN 2015 at the Paris Climate Conference, China promised to peak its emissions of CO2 by 2030. The promise was not legally binding, because as a ‘developing country’ China is allowed to give overriding priority to ‘economic and social development and poverty eradication’.

In any case the Chinese government never gave any commitment as to what level its emissions would peak at, or at what rate they would decline afterwards.

Since Paris, emissions have steadily risen by 14 per cent in China, and at current rates they will be 35 per cent higher by 2030 than they were in 2015.

And there is no sign that they will fall quickly any time soon. Only last week we found out that the country approved the construction of another 106 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity last year, four times higher than a year earlier and the highest since 2015.

Over the year, 50GW of coal power capacity went into construction across the country – up by more than half compared with the previous year – driven by energy security considerations.

At the end of 2021, China had 1,296GW of thermal capacity, nearly all of which is coal. In other words, these new projects will add an extra 8 per cent capacity. A look at coal power capacity over the years shows just how steady the rise has been:

Although China is building solar farms, the output accounts for only 4% of its electricity. The Chinese government have worked out that they cannot run the economy and provide the cheap and reliable energy their citizens needs with wind and solar power alone.

With energy security an ever greater concern around the world, China will look to maximising its own reserves of coal. If that message is not clear enough, this is what the latest report by China’s state planner, the NDRC, had to say on the matter this week: ‘We will strengthen the basic supporting role of coal [and] take orderly steps to increase advanced coal production while ensuring safety.’

Half China’s coal power capacity is modern plant, built since 2010, and an equivalent amount is on the cards to be built in the next decade. While China will continue to shutter its older, heavily polluting and inefficient coal plants, the current batch of HELE coal power stations (High Energy Low Emissions) will carry on operating for decades to come.

Naive western leaders have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into believing that China is serious about reducing emissions. The facts say otherwise.

Falling energy prices spark fake news

AS I reported last month, wholesale gas and electricity prices have been steadily falling in the last few months since peaking last August. As a result, the new energy price cap just published by Ofgem, which covers the period April to June, has been cut by about £1,000 to £3,280. However this saving won’t necessarily appear in household energy bills because of reductions in government support.

The cap is based on wholesale prices between November and January. But as I have been reporting in recent weeks, market prices for both gas and electricity have fallen rapidly since November, and this means that the cap should be much less come July, maybe around £2,100, assuming wholesale prices remain where they are now.

The announcement brought a ton of misinformation from Simon Evans, deputy editor at Carbon Brief (the climate change lobby group funded by the far-left European Climate Foundation):

Nobody would deny that gas prices are higher than two years ago, or that electricity prices are also higher as a result. But Simon Evans has been misleading his readers because high though they are, gas-fired electricity is still cheaper than the precious wind farms he would rather we had.

Market prices of electricity averaged £121/MWh in January, and this price generally reflects the price of gas-fired power as the marginal supplier.

However offshore wind farms are currently being paid £194/MWh on average including the subsidies which get added to our bills. Even onshore wind costs £173/MWh.

And these costs don’t include all of the other indirect costs incurred because of their intermittency. Only last week the government announced the results of the latest Capacity Market Auction, which pays generators to provide back-up capacity. This latest round contracted capacity for 2026/27 at a cost of £2.7billion, which is equivalent to £100 per household.

If we had more gas-fired power and less wind power, our energy bills would be lower, not higher.

Missed chance to destroy decarbonisation strategy

THE National Audit Office (NAO) has just published a report, Decarbonising the Power Sector,  about government plans to decarbonise the power sector completely by 2035.

This was an ideal opportunity to challenge the whole strategy, the lack of any proper budget and value for money assessments, and to lay bare the naïve assumptions about renewable energy which form the basis of policy. Instead the NAO have relied totally on the government’s own costings and modelling. Even these reckon that it will cost £400billion to decarbonise the UK power sector by 2035, and do not include the massive cost of upgrading the whole transmission and distribution network to cater for an anticipated 60 per cent increase in demand for electricity.

However, tucked away on Page 8 is this admission:

And they recommend:

In simple terms, the NAO has admitted that totally decarbonising the grid by 2035 (or 2030 as Labour have promised) is pie in the sky. You still need reliable power when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine.

It is a great shame that the NAO did not push this logic further. With demand increasing by 60 per cent as we adopt electric cars and heat pumps, the UK is likely to need twice as much gas power capacity as it has now, but who will build this when they will be shut out of the market in a few years’ time?

The same applies to ‘low-carbon’ alternatives such as hydrogen power stations and combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants with carbon capture. These will also have to be built from scratch. Moreover, there is no way that a national hydrogen network will be available in the 2030s, and such a thing remains unlikely thereafter. Where then will these new hydrogen-burning power stations get their hydrogen from?

A thorough and truly independent report would have called for the whole decarbonisation strategy to be suspended until all these fundamental questions had been addressed.

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Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood is a former accountant who blogs about climate change at Not a Lot of People Know That

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