CAE in Media


Gradual steps need to be taken on the road to a cleaner future, experts say

  • Published: Apr 4, 2023
  • Source: ChinaDaily
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Employees work on the solar panel production line at a company in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province. [Photo by SI WEI/FOR CHINA DAILY]


China's transition to new types of energy should not be carried out abruptly, but must be taken step by step, industry experts said.

In building a new type of power system featuring a gradual increase in the proportion of new energy sources, the role played by coal in supporting power production will be gradually reduced, they said.

Shu Yinbiao, president of the International Electrotechnical Commission and an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said a new type of power system with increased integration of renewable energy sources with the power grid calls for a gradual fall in the proportion of coal used, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to suddenly stop the use of coal.

"A new type of power system "refers to a modernized and updated version of the traditional system that 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.

"During the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), there will also be some expansion and capacity increase in coal-fired power to meet electricity demand, and electricity production capacity will also increase," Su told a forum held by the China Electricity Council in Beijing this month.

"However, there will be an inevitable fall in the use of coal-fired power in the long term, with such power generation being phased out in an orderly way within 20 years," Shu said.

Shu believes that by 2030, when China aims to have achieved 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, with installed power generation capacity standing at 4 billion kW.

Up to 80 percent of the newly added electricity demand by 2030 will be met by clean energy sources, with the proportion of clean energy in power generation rising from 38 percent now to 50 percent, he said.

Shu added that further decarbonization of the power grid will take place from 2030 to 2050, during which time coal-fired power capacity will be reduced and the proportion of coal-fired power production will gradually fall from 43 percent to about 8 percent.

He said total electricity consumption will reach 15 trillion kWh, with installed power generation capacity standing at 6.2 billion kW. All new electricity demand during this period will be met by clean energy sources, and many existing coal-fired power units will be replaced. The proportion of clean energy in power generation will exceed 80 percent, Shu added.

By 2060, when China aims to achieve carbon neutrality, coal will act more as an emergency backup power source during peak hours and in extreme weather conditions. Some 400 million kW of coal-fired power will be retained as emergency backup by 2060, with such power accounting for about 6 percent of total generation, Shu said.

Carbon dioxide emissions from remaining coal-fired plants will be neutralized through carbon capture, utilization and storage, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage to achieve a zero-carbon power system, he added.

Luo Zuoxian, head of intelligence and research at the Sinopec Economics and Development Research Institute, said China has been working to accelerate the transformation of coal power generation and develop technologies to promote its clean and efficient use to ensure energy security and achieve green development.

With technological advances, these methods will offer lower cost and further facilitate the nation's carbon peak and neutrality ambitions, he said.

Shu said that by 2060, the nation's power consumption will reach 16 trillion kWh, up from the present 8.6 trillion kWh. Total installed power generation capacity will be 7 billion kW, of which more than 6 billion kW will be from clean energy sources.