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Dr. Xiaohui Hao

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Table of Contents

Policies and Measures for Mitigating GHGs in Chinese Power Sector

1. Present Situation of Power Industry in China

Chinese power industry has developed rapidly since China implemented the policy of reform and opening to the outside world two decades ago. The total installed generating capacity reached 270 GW with an annual electricity generation over 1167Twh by the end of 1998.

The rapid development has greatly supported national economic growth and improved people’s living standards. However, we are clearly aware that the per capita installed generating capacity and the annual per capita electricity consumption are only 0.2KW and 900Kwh respectively, ranking behind the 80th in the world. There are around 60 million people living in remote areas, who still have no access to electricity today. In addition, in some areas where people are alleviated from power shortage, they still suffer from power curtailments during peak hours due to lack of peaking capacity. As about 75% of installed generating capacity in China is based on coal, environmental problems resulted from coal combustion are becoming more serious along with the expansion of thermal power plants.

The sulfur dioxide emission from Chinese industries, for instance, has increased from 15.71 million tons in 1990 to 19.46 million tons in 1996, causing acid rain covering one third of territory. Power sector is also a major contributor of carbon dioxide emission which is increasingly conceded as a global environment issue.

The basic situation of Chinese power industry is as follows: rapid growth, large in total amount while low in terms of per capita consumption, heavy dependence on coal, relatively low energy efficiency(33% in average for thermal power), serious environmental problems( both local and global) to be dealt with.

2.Major environment Issues

As coal plays the dominant role in the energy structure in China, the atmospheric pollution is one of the coal-smoke type. Focusing this type of pollution, the power sector has made great effort in dealing with the smoke dust discharge and considerable achievement has been obtained in reducing the total smoke dust discharge to 3.70 million tons in 1996 from 3.99 million tons in 1980 while the installed capacity of thermal power plants almost tripled in the same period, thus putting smoke dust under effective control. However, sulfur dioxide emission has been increasing along with the expansion of installed generating capacity, basically out of control. Of the total SO2 emission 19.46 million tons from all industries in 1996, more than 35% came from thermal power plants.

As sulfur dioxide emission has already caused acid rain covering one third of total territory and other adverse effects to people, it is an urgent need for power industry to strictly control this emission in the country, in particular, in those areas which are listed as " acid rain control area and sulfur dioxide pollution control area"(simplified as "two Areas under Control"). It is for this reason that we are very much concern with the development and application of clear coal technology for power generation.

Carbon dioxide emission from burning fossil fuel has been increasingly concerned by international community due to its green house effect which is said to be causing global climate change. China emitted 3 billion tons CO2 in 1996, accounting for 13.6% of the world. Despite the fact that per capita CO2 emission from china is only one seventh of that from the US, China has already been the second largest contributor next to the US.

3. Policies and Measures for Environmental protection

Firstly, from a generate point of view, to raise the share of electricity in the end use of energy should be adopted as one of the basic policies for maintaining a sustainable development in China. This is because the higher the ratio of electricity in the end use of energy, the lower the energy consumed per unit GDP(defined as energy intensity) according to energy statistics in all countries. With the same service level, electricity can provide higher quality, cleaner, more convenient and efficient service than any other forms of energy.

Furthermore, the centralized coal-burning power generation is much easier in pollution control with modern technologies than distributed burning of fossil fuels. The statistics also shows the higher the percentage of coal production converted to electricity, the higher energy efficiency reached in a country. China converts 30% of its coal production into electricity, much less a percentage compared to industrialized countries. This is why china has adopted an energy policy of "Electricity as the center, coal as the basis" for many years and is expected to convert more coal into electricity in years to come.

Secondly, the power sector should make every effort to improve energy efficiency in generation, transformation, distribution and utilization. Presently, the average efficiency of thermal power plants is around 33%, lower than advanced level reached in industrialized countries. Application of new technology and new equipment has even larger potential for improving efficiency in end use of energy.

So, the emphasis of improving efficiency is placed on:

--technical retrofitting of obsolete generating units and less efficient T&D facilities;

--power electronic technology application in power industry;

--promoting the sue of high efficient apparatus;

--demand side management

Thirdly, accelerate the development of new and renewable energy resources. As China has both abundant hydro and wind energy resources, priority will be given to develop them in coming years. At the same time, nuclear power as a carbon free energy will be developed appropriately.

Fourthly, develop clean coal technology. In this respect, a program of construction 300-400MW integrated gasification conbined cycle(IGCC) pilot plant has launched its pre-engineering works, the pressurized fluidized bed combustion combined cycle(PFBC-CC) experimental project as well as the conventional desulfurization and low NOx combustion technology for coal-fired power plants are all under progress in full swing.

Fifthly, a series of policies and measures have been implemented for local environmental protection.

These include:

1. establishment of environment legal system. based on the six environmental protection laws and "electricity Law of the PRC" promulgated by the National People’s Congress, the electric power sector has drown up more than 40 rules, regulations and standards, including "Environmental Protection Management Measures for Electric Power Industry", " Measures for Management on Environmental Protection of Thermal Power Plants in Compliance with Standard" In " Criteria for Atmospheric Pollutants Discharge from Thermal Power Plants", maximum permissible dust concentration--200mg/Nm3(dry) for thermal power plants to be built in the suburban areas of cities and large towns, 500mg/Nm3(dry) for those in other areas, average dust precipitation efficiency of 99% for coal sulfur content>1%; 2100mg.Nm3(dry) for coal sulfur content < 1% are stipulated. In these regulation, policy of levying charges on pollutants discharged as a penalty on polluters have been clearly defined.

2. establishment of environmental protection management system at various levels. China has now established an environmental protection management system which is supervised legislatively by the National People’s Congress, implemented by the people’s government at various levels, managed in unified way by administrative departments in in charge of environmental protection and supervised by various relevant departments in accordance with the laws. There are a set of management system such as Annual check system, technical supervision system, centralized management by specialized department, monitoring networks etc.

3. research for environmental protection and publicity and education on the environment. Research on dust removal, desulfurization, exploitation of clean coal power generation technologies and the utilization of coal fly ash, the training of professional personnel and the perfection of research institutions, etc. are playing an important role in pushing forward the environmental protection work in the power sector.

4. promotion of international cooperation and exchange on environmental protection. The power sector has had very good cooperation with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNDP and other international institutions. Their support helped China not only in specific projects but also in providing opportunities to learn experience from other countries. For many years China has benefited from bi-lateral cooperation with Canada, France, Germany, Japan, USA and other countries. In this increasingly important area: environmental protection, it is China basic policy to strengthen the existing cooperation. In the effort to deal with the mitigation of GHGs, CO2 in particular, China is concerned with the progress of Clean Development Mechanism(CDM) and would be interested in having some power projects aiming at raising energy efficiency and alleviating GHGs emission to be cooperated with developed countries in the name of CDM in the future. It is our hope that CDM would not only benefit developed countries who have been already committed to the UNFCCC and Tyoto Protocol but also benefit the Chinese power sector in their effort to deal with local and global environmental issues.


-State Planning Commission, PRC, Department of Communication and Energy,(1998), Energy Report of China. Beijing

-State Statistical Bureau, PRC.(1998)China Statistical Yearbook 1998.Beijing, China Statistical Publishing House

-The Administrative Center for China’s Agenda 21, Proceedings of the high-level round table conference on China’s Agenda 21, Science Press 1995 Beijing

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