Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t JoNova – in a hilarious twist of climate politics, China looks like it is positioning itself, to flood Europe with desperately needed cheap coal generated electricity: all completely within the letter of the various Paris climate agreements.
China’s proposed investments in long-distance, ultra-high voltage (UHV) power transmission lines will pave the way for power exports as far as Germany, the head of the national power grid said on Tuesday as he launched an initiative for cross-border power connections.
Exporting power to central Asia and beyond falls into China’s “one belt, one road” ambitions to export industrial overcapacity and engineering expertise as it faces slowing growth at home. The plan would allow enormous hydropower dams, coal-fired power plants, and wind farms in frontier regions such as Xinjiang to sell into higher priced markets overseas…
Most pundits assumed China was making an awful mistake – that their astonishing expansion of coal capacity, adding a new coal fired generator every week, was simply a resource misallocation bubble waiting to burst. For example;
When China published its 2014 electricity statistics back in February, we warned that the build-up of new coal-fired in China was a “bubble waiting to burst”. The past six months have made the problem even more apparent.
China’s state-owned power companies have continued adding new coal-fired power plants to the grid at a feverish pace, even as demand for power generation from coal declines.
During the first half of 2015, 23.4 gigawatts (GW) of thermal power plants were brought online [data in Chinese], while thermal power generation fell 3.2%. As a result, capacity utilization at thermal power plants fell further from the all-time low reached last year, now dropping just below 50%.
So the old factoid about China adding one coal plant per week deserves to be updated — China is now adding one IDLE coal power plant per week.
Most of China’s new thermal capacity is coal, with gas and biomass representing up to a quarter.
The planned expansion of UHV power lines should allow all that spare capacity to be utilised, by exporting the excess capacity all over Eurasia, all the way to Western Europe.
If the Paris Climate Agreement was already a joke, the Chinese electricity export plan is surely the punchline.
It could still all come unstuck. The Chinese plan, to take advantage of their “climate pact” with President Obama, to export unlimited quantities of coal power to Western countries which are hamstrung by their domestic CO2 emission commitments, is so openly farcical the entire Paris agreement could implode.
But maybe I am being naive, by considering the possibility that common sense will prevail. After all, Western governments are still wasting ridiculous amounts of tax money funding utterly unviable renewable installations.