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India and China accelerate low emissions coal revolution, says IEA

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China and India are among 10 Asian countries increasing their investment in cleaner coal-fired power stations and have cut their carbon emissions by 25 per cent, a report shows.

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The report, by the London-based International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre, says “the low emissions coal revolution is accelerating”, with China leading the way “by showing the world how to reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power”.

 The local industry is hoping the growing appetite for “new generation” coal-fired power stations will increase the premium for higher quality coal needed to supply the new technology, and secure its future.

The report found that 37 per cent of electricity generation across 10 Asian countries – China, India, Bangladesh, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam – was drawn from 670 high efficiency, low emissions coal-fired power generation units. The units are known as supercritical and ultrasupercritical, and another 1066 are under construction or planned.

That cleaner power emits 20 to 25 per cent less CO2 than the average of existing power stations in the countries and up to 40 per cent less than the oldest technology in place.

Importantly, all 10 countries studied are increasing investment in coal-fired power stations, as well as in supercritical and ultrasupercritical technology in preference to subcritical.

And when the clean capacity in the pipeline comes online it will lead to about 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2 abatement annually, or a 17 per cent reduction, when compared to installing subcritical plants, the report claims. But, if all new power under construction or planned across the Asian countries in question was ultrasupercritical, then estimated annual emissions reduction would increase to 2 billion tonnes – equivalent to India’s current annual emissions.

Emissions from ultrasupercritical plants are 19 per cent lower than those from a brand new subcritical plant, while supercriticals are 13 per cent lower. When compared to old subcritical units, those reductions are closer to 40 per cent.

The initial capital cost for the “new generation” plants is higher but less coal is required per unit of electricity. The plants produce electricity more efficiently by operating at higher temperatures and pressures.

If India were to adopt of a fully ultrasupercritical coal fleet, it could achieve CO2 reductions of about 20 per cent, or 509 million tonnes, each year.

Glencore’s coal boss Peter Freyberg has called for the global climate summit in Paris this year to produce “policy, which addresses the funding gap to facilitate the build of high efficiency low emission power stations”.

“There has been significant populist policy over the last decade – this populist policy avoids talking about coal,” he said in Melbourne in June.

There are about 3,100 coal-fired power stations globally, with 8,700 generation units – a third (or 3048) of which operate in China.

Coal-fired power makes up 63 per cent of China’s current electricity generation, and the Asian giant is “leading the world in installing high efficiency, low emissions technology”, the report says.

In 2006, China mandated that new coal-fired power plants with 600 MWe (600,000kw) capacity or above apply supercritical or ultrasupercritical technology, with several exceptions.

At the end of 2014, China’s split was 60 per cent subcritical and 40 per cent supercritical and ultrasupercritical. But only 14 per cent of new capacity planned or currently being is subcritical, with the 86 per cent balance “new generation”.

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