Beijing to close all major coal plants by 2016 in bid to cut pollution

To save lives and make the capital more liveable, Beijing plans to close all major coal-fired power plants by next year.  

The dirty plants will be replaced by cleaner gas-fired plants which, city leaders say, can create 2.6 times more electricity. 

The coal cull has already started. A plant run by China Datang Corporation was closed last year and plants owned by Guohua Electric Power Corp. and Beijing Energy Investment Holding Co. were shut last week.  

An 845MW plant owned by China Huaneng Group Corporation will close next year.  

Killer coal 

Coal pollution killed 670,000 people in China in 2012, which is part of the reason why Beijing aims to decrease annual coal consumption by 13 million metric tons by 2017 – down from 2012 levels. 

The government estimates that closing the Beijing plants will cut annual coal consumption by 9.2 million metric tons. 

Tian Miao, analyst at North Square Blue Oak Ltd in Beijing, told Bloomberg: "Most pollutants come from burning coal, so the closure will have a clear impact to reduce emissions. The replacement with natural gas will be much cleaner with less pollution, though with a bit higher cost." 

The closure of the plants is part of a growing trend in Bejing and China to curb pollution levels. 

China has recently unveiled the world’s first hydrogen-powered tram which is powered by hydrogen fuel cells.  

China also recently approved more nuclear reactors in a bid to combat excessive pollution.  

China is the world’s largest net carbon emitter, although China’s per capita emissions, at around 1.7 tons per person, are nearly three times less than per capita emissions in the US, where the figure is 4.7 tons (according to 2010 figures published by the United States’ Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center).   

Image: Two photos taken in the same location in Beijing in August 2005. The photograph on the left was taken after it had rained for two days. The right photograph shows smog covering Beijing in what would otherwise be a sunny day.

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