Beijing is finally ready to kick its coal power habit. China’s capital city just announced plans to shut down the last of its remaining coal plants by 2016. Beijing will be switching to gas-fired electricity plants, which are significantly cleaner and produce up to 2.6 times more electricity than their coal-fired predecessors.
In Beijing, pollution last year was nearly double the national standard. Cutting the city’s coal plants will reduce coal use by 9.2 million metric tons annually, and 30 million tons of carbon will be kept out of the atmosphere each year.
Bloomberg notes that the closure of Beijing’s plants is one move in a country-wide trend. China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon, and it faces pressure both at home and abroad to cut carbon and address environmental atrocities such as huge air quality problems – all caused by the acceleration of the world’s fastest-growing economy.
“Most pollutants come from burning coal, so the closure will have a clear impact to reduce emissions,” said Beijing-based analyst, Tian Miao. “The replacement with natural gas will be much cleaner with less pollution, though with a bit higher cost.”
In a July 2014 announcement, China’s chief of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, Song Yuanming said the country also plans to close more than 2,000 of its smaller coal mines by the end of 2015. Currently, China gets about 64 percent of its electricity from coal (compared to about 30 percent in the U.S.) so closing coal plants is a key step in the country’s plans to cut is pollution. At the same time, China is investing in hydroelectric, solar and wind power while seeking to rebuild its nuclear energy program.