According to industry experts, China’s shift to new energy sources should be gradual rather than abrupt. They suggest building a new type of power system that gradually increases the proportion of renewable energy sources while reducing the role of coal in supporting power production. Shu Yinbiao, president of the International Electrotechnical Commission and an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, explained that a modernized power system involves integrating renewable energy sources like solar and wind power with the power grid, implementing new technologies and energy storage systems, and gradually reducing coal use.
While there will be some expansion and capacity increase in coal-fired power during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) to meet electricity demand, the use of coal-fired power will eventually be phased out in an orderly way within 20 years. By 2030, China aims to have achieved peak carbon emissions, with electricity generated from coal-fired power plants reaching 5.5 trillion kilowatt-hours. Up to 80 percent of newly added electricity demand by 2030 will be met by clean energy sources, and the proportion of clean energy in power generation will rise from 38 percent to 50 percent.
From 2030 to 2050, further decarbonization of the power grid will take place, with the proportion of coal-fired power production gradually falling from 43 percent to about 8 percent. By 2060, when China aims to achieve carbon neutrality, coal will act more as an emergency backup power source, with only 6 percent of total generation coming from coal-fired power. Carbon dioxide emissions from remaining coal-fired plants will be neutralized through carbon capture, utilization and storage, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage to achieve a zero-carbon power system.
Luo Zuoxian, head of intelligence and research at the Sinopec Economics and Development Research Institute, stated that China has been working to accelerate the transformation of coal power generation and develop technologies to promote its clean and efficient use to ensure energy security and achieve green development. With technological advances, these methods will offer lower cost and further facilitate the nation’s carbon peak and neutrality ambitions. By 2060, China’s power consumption is expected to reach 16 trillion kWh, with more than 6 billion kW of installed power generation capacity coming from clean energy sources.