• CoalSwarm research suggests 259 GW of coal-fired capacity being built in China, but figures disputed

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The BBC has covered a research report by campaign organisation CoalSwarm which used satellite imagery to estimate that there are currently 259 GW of coal-fired capacity being built in China. Most of the plants had been approved for construction by provincial governments between 2014 and 2016, after authority for approvals had been devolved to them from the national government. After a surge in approvals during that time, the national government stepped in to try to suspend some of the plants, but the CoalSwarm report claims that this has not been successful. The researchers examined satellite imagery for more than 100 coal-fired plants which had had suspension orders issued on them, and found that work on the plants was in fact ongoing. CoalSwarm points out that 259 GW of power generation capacity is equal to the entire US coal-fired fleet, and stresses that the global climate can little afford such additional unabated coal firing. A representative from the Oslo-based Centre for International Climate Research contacted by the BBC expressed his opinion that the building work may be more about stimulating the Chinese economy than firing coal, as many existing plants currently run on part load. Additionally, the research has been contested by the International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre, which wrote that the “claim by CoalSwarm that 259 GW of coal plants are under construction in China could be a gross overestimation by 350%. Other authoritative sources such as the Platt’s World Electric Power Plant Database suggest that 74 GW of plants being built in China. In fact, the 259 GW claimed by Coalswarm is 35% higher than the 192 GW of capacity being built around the whole world across more than 30 countries.”