[BEIJING] China's government said on Monday that it would strictly control the total capacity of its coal-fired power sector, confirming a move that had previously been flagged by the country's energy watchdog.
Beijing will halt the construction of new coal-fired power plants until 2018 in 15 regions even for projects that have already been approved, the country's top economic planner said in a joint statement with China's energy regulator. It will also stop approving new projects in as many as 13 provinces until 2018.
The National Energy Administration had said in late March that the step was on the way after details were reported by local media.
China has promised to bring greenhouse gas emissions to a peak by "around 2030" as part of its commitments to a global pact to combat global warming, signed in Paris last year. The country is by far the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
That has hit international coal markets hard, with miners in key suppliers such as Australia scrambling for business.
"In the regions with a power surplus or under air pollution control, we will not arrange construction planning for new coal-fired power plants," the government said in the statement, sent to major power companies and local regulatory bodies on Monday.
Environmental group Greenpeace said the rules, if fully implemented, could involve up to 250 power projects with a total of 170 GW in capacity, according to initial estimates in March.
The government also said in the statement that it would prioritize building power plants that use non-fossil fuels in regions short of energy supplies.
It added that it would also retire old coal-fired generators that fall short of meeting efficiency and environmental standards, targeting units smaller than 300 MW that have been serving over 20-25 years.