Beijing closes its polluting power plant

Plans to close the remaining three coal-fired plants also, and generate power wholly by clean energy by 2016

By Sonalika Sinha
Published: Friday 25 July 2014

 Beijing's coal-fired power stations are largely blamed for air pollution in the city  (Image courtesy flickr)

Bucking under public pressure, Beijing on Wednesday closed the first of its four large coal-fired power plants to cut pollution, according to media reports. There was growing public anger due to persistent smog in the city. The Chinese capital plans to replace the power plant with a gas-fired one and by bringing electricity from other provinces.

Beijing has a major air pollution problem that reached emergency proportions in winter 2012-2013, says Greenpeace. One of the key contributors to the problem is the very large amount of coal burning, and power generation is the region’s biggest coal-burning sector, it says.

After closing the 50-year-old Gaojing Thermal Power Plant, Beijing plans to close the remaining thermal power plants by 2016 and generate power wholly by clean energy. It is now drawing up plans to ease traffic. This may include a congestion charge.

It is also building gas-fired power plants and aims to reduce coal use by 2.6 million tonnes this year and a total of 9.2 million tonnes by the end of 2016, leaving its annual consumption at less than 10 million tonnes by 2017. It plans to cut emissions of 10,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide, 19,000 tonnes of nitric oxide and 3,000 tonnes of dust annually.

Beijing’s average PM2.5 index of 91.6 micrograms per cubic meter in first half of 2014 represents an 11.2 percent year-on-year decrease.

The airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter are blamed for the smog in Beijing. The figure is still far above the national standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter, says a report by Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.

In September 2013, a five-year plan was introduced in the city to slash coal consumption, promote clean energy use and reduce production capacities of heavy polluters.

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