China backs ‘revolutionary’ clean coal

Environment minister promotes power station technology to cut pollution as China sets out five-year energy blueprint 

(credit: Wikimedia commons)

(credit: Wikimedia commons)

By Alex Pashley

China will boost emissions-cutting technologies for coal-fired power stations, its environment protection minister said on Friday.

The move was a “revolutionary effort that will overturn the conventional wisdom that coal is not clean,” said Chen Jining in comments paraphrased by state news agency Xinhua.

China would also curb high-polluting bulk coal burned in households, as it bids to cut smog that blankets its cities, he told reporters on the sidelines of a parliamentary session.

It follows the publication of the country’s draft five-year plan, which set ambitious standards for air quality and capped energy consumption for the period 2016-2020.

The world’s leading carbon polluter pledged in December to cut coal power pollution by 60%, in part by upgrading power stations to “ultra low emission” techniques.

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Burning coal in powder form in high-pressure turbines to remove impurities, or ‘gasify’ it to leave the most carbon-intensive components behind as slag are examples.

Yet campaigners argue coal can never be clean, and is no excuse not to deploy renewable sources like wind and solar.

A Greenpeace investigation in December said nearly half of new clean plants in the country were violating standards as the technology wasn’t always switched on.

Chen said transforming the country’s “energy structure” would take time.

“We will experience a long period of adjusting the energy consumption structure, during which we will promote clean energy, strengthen adjustments to energy consumption and promote clean use of coal,” he said.

China made up a third of all new clean energy investments in 2015 – a 17% year-on-year increase to $110.5 billion – according to a Bloomberg report.

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