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China faces power supply risks as coal-fired capacity growth slows
CHINA added less coal-fired power capacity in the first nine months of the year than in the same period of 2017, and that could crimp electricity supply during peak periods of the coming winter, the country's electricity association said on Thursday.
China still added 15.73 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power from January to September, though that was 9.54 GW less than in the same period of last year, the China Electricity Council (CEC) said in a report.
Over the same period, China added a record 59.25 GW of new, non-fossil fuel energy capacity, including 34.52 GW of new solar power, according to the report.
The world's biggest coal consumer has been striving to adjust its energy structure by lowering the share of coal-fired power in total electricity use, part of an effort to clear smog from its skies and keep promises to tackle climate change.
"The increasing share of renewable energy would lead to inadequate peak load regulation capacity ... Therefore some areas may experience an electricity crunch during peak periods amid tight supplies of coal and natural gas," the CEC said.
At the end of September, China had 990 GW of coal-fired power capacity, making up 56.4 per cent of total national capacity, it said.
The council forecasts China will have total power generation capacity of around 1,900 GW by the end of this year, with coal-fired capacity rising to 1,010 GW, but it also said coal supply could be strained in some regions this winter.
China converted at least 4.8 million households from bulk coal to gas- or electricity-powered heating this year in central and northern regions. That is on top of 5.78 million households switched last year.
Benchmark thermal coal prices on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange hit a peak of 667.4 yuan (S$133) a tonne in mid-October. It fell to 632.4 yuan on Thursday, but remains much higher than the recommended prices of 570 yuan a tonne set by the central government.
China has made efforts to raise the share of renewables in energy consumption, but absolute coal use has still rebounded since last year, prompting concerns among some green groups.
Officials insist China's climate commitments will not waver, despite "volatility" in coal use and fluctuations in economic growth.
"The adjustment of the energy structure is not an easy task ... There is pressure, but the direction of the policy will not change," said Li Gao, a senior climate change official, in a news briefing on Wednesday.
In the first three quarters of the year, China consumed 5.11 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up 8.9 per cent on the year and lifted by use in industrial sectors, the CEC said. REUTERS