China’s energy regulator has ordered 11 provinces to stop more than 100 coal-fired power projects, with a combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts, its latest dramatic step to curb the use of fossil fuels in the world’s top energy market.
In a document issued on Jan. 14, financial media group Caixin reported, the National Energy Administration (NEA) suspended the coal projects, some of which were already under construction.
The projects worth some 430 billion yuan ($62 billion) were to have been spread across provinces and autonomous regions including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi and other northwestern areas.
Putting the power projects on hold is a major step towards the government’s effort to produce power from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and wean the country off coal, which accounts for the majority of the nation’s power supply.
“Stopping under-construction projects seems wasteful and costly, but spending money and resources to finish these completely unneeded plants would be even more wasteful,” said Greenpeace in a statement.
The move follows similar initiatives last year and comes after the government said in November it would eliminate or delay at least 150 GW of coal-fired power projects between 2016 and 2020 and cap coal power generation at 1,100 GW.
To put it in perspective, some 130 GW of additional solar and wind power will be installed by 2020, equal to France’s total renewable power generation capacity, said Frank Yu, principal consultant at Wood Mackenzie.
“This shows the government is keeping its promise in curbing supplies of coal power,” Yu said.
Some of the projects will still go ahead, but not until 2025 and will likely replace outdated technology, he said.
China’s annual demand growth for power will slow to 3-4 percent, according to Wood Mackenzie, down from double-digit growth in recent years as energy intensive industries like glass and metals contract.