China building lots of new coal plants

China building lots of new coal plants

Interesting article on Chinese coal plants in the New York Times today:

According to the article, Chinese companies are planning to build 1,600 new coal plants, many in other countries. The new plants represent a 43% increase in the world's coal-powered electricity generation. While China is reducing coal use domestically-- many Chinese plants are running far below capacity-- the plethora of new coal plants they're building in other countries far outweighs this. Apparently the goal is to help companies affected by China's own reduction in coal-fired power make money overseas.

The article notes that while Chinese companies are "among the leading renewables companies around the world and play a key role in the dramatic fall of wind and solar power prices,” that these efforts are "driven by narrow concerns over local pollution" and "those concerns seem not to extend elsewhere."

And it's not just China: Japan and Germany are burning more coal to offset the loss of nuclear power generation. Sigh. File this under "be careful what you wish for".

From the article: "The fleet of new coal plants would make it virtually impossible to meet the goals set in the Paris climate accord," In other words, although China may technically adhere to the Paris accords, their own emissions reductions are far outweighed by the thousands of coal plants they're building in other countries.

Should_I | 06/07/2017

Would you file this under the "Trump was right, accord is a joke" category?

rgrant | 06/07/2017

It's on those other countries to figure out how they meet their targets. But I agree it's not good. The planned economy giveth and it taketh away... | 06/07/2017

Seems rather funny today. USA is closing a number of coal plants, not because of any regulations or desire for lower emissions, but they are more costly to create electricity than renewables. Coal is doomed for electrical generation in the USA, and I suspect many other places. Sounds like those new Chinese sourced coal plants will be costly mistakes by those that were suckered into buying them. Perhaps the Chinese toss in "cheap" 40 year financing, which will make a ton of money for China even if the plant is an expensive boondoggle.

rxlawdude | 06/07/2017

@TeslaTap, China is abiding by the Paris accord - they are eliminating domestic coal-fired energy. Those developing nations need energy, but quick and cheap. (Or, quick and dirty to be more accurate.)

China is financing these developing nations, and as TTap says, it's each of those nation's responsibility to meet the Paris accord. Ultimately.

The bigger question is, how many coal-fired power plants exist on the planet? Is that number going up or down?

Dramsey | 07/07/2017

TeslaTap: Coal is dying in the U.S., as you noted, but the proximate cause is cheap LNG, not renewables. Here’s a good explanation of how each type of power generation fares against coal. It’s interesting to note the disparities between “amount invested” and “generating capacity.”

rxlawdude: According to the article I cited it would seem th3 number of coal plants is going up, at least in th4 short term.

RedShift | 07/07/2017


LNG is a huge part, but renewables also play their part. Coal is dying here, is close to that in big developing nations, but isn't yet wounded or close to being sick in the third world countries. It will take a long time for those nations to forgo coal.

As an aside, I hate the fearmongering liberals that scream and yell their horror at nuclear power. Without adequately addressing the energy problem via renewables, they seek to shut down an arguably clean, dense source of energy. It took a once in a lifetime magnitude earthquake to damage Fukushima. Instead of making existing technology better and safer, they try to get them shut down. To be replaced by COAL. :-/

SO | 07/07/2017

I'm still not a fan of nuclear.

1. If something does go wrong, you can't use the area for years.

2. It is a target for terrorists (or at least the government sees it that way by having to invest in security.)

3. No good solution dealing with the waste.

I'd actually take coal over nuclear for the short term but keep pushing for distributed solar power generation for the long term.

Tropopause | 07/07/2017

I hope Tesla will shine the beacon of hope and slowly replace coal plants with Tesla Solar and Power Pack/Power Wall. The world is ripe for the pickin'.

Continents are just big islands!

rgrant | 07/07/2017

So it occurs to me that these plants are probably to ensure coal exports from China have a market. Hopefully the countries in question wise up to the fact that renewables will give them free energy once the investment is paid off...

JayInJapan | 07/07/2017

My former colleague is an atmospheric science specialist. He's naturalized Japanese, but he's from China. He often goes to China for data collection. He has told me that there are many areas in China where coal is just sitting there. Many drive up and just take it, use that for heating their homes and businesses; it's free energy and understandable about how it gets used. 2-3 years ago we had clouds of pollution covering where I live. Something has changed because it's not nearly as bad as before.

Re: Japan burning more coal: the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami shut down all nuclear power plants here, and they're very slow to open them back up. There are coal plants here, but they are all using the latest technology. Most energy, except renewables, needs to be imported here. I can check into the coal plant tech here if you're interested. My colleague above takes students on tours there. I'll ask to tag along.

Six months after the disasters, we did our part by adding solar panels. The national, prefectural, and city governments all helped us out with rebates. I estimate we break even in a little more than a year from now. I thought our action might have an effect on our neighbors, but nothing's no yet. I do, however, see a LOT of panels installed in many places.

My two cents...

JayInJapan | 07/07/2017

nothing's no -->nothing

Frenchy | 08/07/2017


Spot on about Nuclear Fission, but Nuclear fusion is a completely different story.

Frenchy | 08/07/2017

Spot on about Nuclear Fission, but Nuclear fusion is a completely different story.

SO | 08/07/2017

@Frenchy - agreed. But fusion seems to always be "just around the corner".

SamO | 08/07/2017

solar + battery is already the cheapest combo in many places.

those "lots of new coal plants" won't be built. These construction costs are "sunk costs."

Many are based on carbon capture. This is Solyndra x 20

Southern Co. last week pulled the plug on its Kemper integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) project in Mississippi just as President Donald Trump was wrapping up what the White House called Energy Week.

The Kemper project was supposed to turn coal from an adjacent lignite mine into gas to fuel a 582 MW power plant and capture and as much as 65% of the carbon dioxide that the plant would have emitted.

Originally estimated at $1.8 billion, Kemper's cost ballooned over a decade to $7.5 billion project. Its failure is an expensive black eye for Southern, but it is also being viewed as a death knell for "clean coal," which happens to be one of Trump’s central energy agenda items.

I'll repeat: SOLAR + BATTERY

$0.11/kWh in Hawaii

Should_I | 08/07/2017

Who is cherry picking? The first linline on the current article he linked refrences the info in the 6month old one you linked...........

Remnant | 08/07/2017

@Frenchy (July 8, 2017)

<< @SO_S90D ... Spot on about Nuclear Fission, but Nuclear fusion is a completely different story. >>

Thorium energy is still an option, which lacks the weaponization potential of the Uranium/Plutonium plants.

Dramsey | 08/07/2017


I can't find the $0.11/kWh figure for Tesla-supplied electricity in the article you cited. Do you have a source for it?

SO | 08/07/2017

Here it states 13.9 cents (which is lower than what I pay in Michigan.)

SamO | 08/07/2017

I stand corrected. $0.139/kWh fixed for 20 years.

Al1 | 08/07/2017

Plans are often just that. Plans. Before gas became cheap there were a lot of coal burning plans in the US. There were also lots of LNG importing plans too.

Falling gas prices have changed those calculations. Falling renewable energy generation prices have contributed too.

I wouldn't underestimate what happened in Australia. It's a major coal producing country with coal lobby probably stronger than elsewhere. And they decided to go with wind + storage as a resolution to their crisis.

Maine reason being timing. Both wind and storage projects can be set up in shortest period of time as opposed to traditional power generation plants.

There is no reason to believe timing is of a less importance elsewhere.

Finally, China tightens control over capital outflow. This means many international expansion plans will be revisited.
Meanwhile World Bank and other global financial institutions are much more reluctant to finance coal related projects.


Dramsey | 09/07/2017

“The Kauai Island Cooperative Utility does not own the storage facility and the 55,000 solar panels, Tesla does. It has entered into a contract with the utility to supply it with power for 20 years at 13.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. That compares to the 15.5 cents per kilowatt-hour cost of electricity prior to the Tesla contract.”

I’m assuming these are wholesale prices; Tesla’s price is only 10% lower, but that’s still a win. Since the production price of PV power is zero, I guess the sale price represents the amortization of the cost of the facility over 20 years.

I do wonder why Hawaii retail electricity prices are so high– over $0.30 per kWh– if the existing wholesale price is only half that. It will be interesting to see if the Tesla facility actually results in lower retail prices...

nadurse | 12/07/2017

Oh my, the misinformation about nuclear energy on here is staggering. So the uranium used in nuclear plants cannot be weaponized, at least not in its usable form for generating utility energy, the enrichment in the fuel is waaaay too low to be turned into weapon grade uranium.

Due in part to this low percentage enrichment, much of the uranium present in 'new' fuel can be recycled to be reused for a very long time. There is only a small amount of spent fuel that cannot be used and is considered waste. There already is a good way/plan to store uranium waste, the Yucca Mountain project when it is finished.

New nuclear power plants are incredibly safe, newer designs have more redundancy built into the thermal systems and containment structures, and feature passive cooling which would have prevented Fukishima, unfortunately most of the nuclear plant active today are older facilities. They are safe, but not as safe as new plants being built like the new AP1000 plants coming online.

I find it ironic, that people on hear who yell and scream about FUD news on EVs and renewables, spread their own FUD and misinformation on ideas that they dont agree with regardless of facts. You cant have it both ways; educate yourself on nuclear energy.

SamO | 12/07/2017

Sorry but Nukes do NOT stand on their own two feet with deep subsidies.

$74B from 1973-2003 more than 3X fossil fuel subsidies.

nadurse | 12/07/2017

Thats not the point of my post, there is a commercial discussion to be had yes, but at least be informed of the technology instead of dismissing it as scary or unsafe.

nadurse | 12/07/2017

Or worse yet, spreading lies and FUD whether intentionally or not.

Nexxus | 12/07/2017


I believe you're wrong on the uranium fuel. The real problem is, the Federal laws that keep spent fuel rods from being recycled/reprocessed. This reprocessing will generate 70% reusable uranium fuel, 3% weapons grade plutonium, and the rest as waste. It's because of that 3% generated that the government doesn't want to take the chance on it getting into the wrong hands, that they can't be reprocessed.

President Jimmy Carter is the one to thank for this:

3. THE CARTER POLICY: On April 7, 1977, President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would defer indefinitely the reprocessing of spent nuclear reactor fuel. He stated that after extensive examination of the issues, he had reached the conclusion that this action was necessary to reduce the serious threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, and that by setting this example, the U. S. would encourage other nations to follow its lead. President Carter's Executive Order also announced that the U. S. would sponsor an international examination of alternative fuel cycles, seeking to identify approaches which would allow nuclear power to continue without adding to the risk of nuclear proliferation. More than thirty nations participated over almost three years. But no new magic answer could be found.


This was by executive order and then rescinded by Ronald Reagan and then re-instituted by Bill Clinton.

RedShift | 12/07/2017

Thorium is not yet commercialized, but it's one of the newer 'safer' technologies under research. The proposal to make existing technology smaller and safer is also underway. My point to the fellow liberals is, do not be alarmist about this. Even as I am in support of nuclear, I know it's drawbacks : expensive, complex, and potentially dangerous. Existing reactors which are working safely for the most part need not be torn down to make way for COAL.

nadurse | 12/07/2017

Nexxus, sorry I believe its you thats wrong on uranium fuel. There are facilities in the US that downblend highly enriched uranium for use in commercial nuclear applications, I have physically been there within the past 10 years. Commercial reactors use roughly a 5% uranium enrichment depending on the plant/utility. Weapons grade uranium is usually 80% or greater enrichment.


SamO | 12/07/2017


I just made the (unrebutted) point that Nuclear power is not financially viable. You have no substantive response, which I assume means you agree.

There is no future in traditional nuclear power. The subsidies to make it work are too expensive. There are cheaper, better and CLEANER sources of renewable energy.

Shouldn't have to explain this on the Tesla (solar/battery) site.

And so it goes.

nadurse | 12/07/2017

And I made the point that all of your claims earlier in the thread were wrong, about it being unsafe, nowhere to put waste, weaponized etc. So I assume since you are not responding to that I assume you agree with my post and nuclear is safe, renewable, and technologically viable.

Nuclear power will always be around to some extent if for no other reason than for national security interests, so sorry to burst your bubble if you think its going away 100%. And its a non-carbon energy source, so I am OK with it regardless of cost compared to the tragic cost of fossil fuel based energy sources. I am not an expert on commercial viability of nuclear power so I will leave that to the bean counters and regulators; government regulators which by the way are responsible for much of the fixed cost tied to nuclear.

What I do know is that with the advent of mass produced EVs the electricity demand will go up tremendously, and people/corporations will not be able to produce stationary storage batteries, solar panel, and solar tiles to keep up with the increased energy demands. So do you want that non-solar energy to come from a carbon emitting source like coal/oil/gas that exists today or a non-carbon energy source that already exists today?

SamO | 12/07/2017

Nope. I don't agree with any of that. The evidence for nuclear's un-safety is abundant. It is also NOT a renewable energy resource.

I'll try not to burst any (strawmen) bubbles. Nuclear is going away because it is terrible. For the financial reasons above, as well as the very human reasons: safety.

But please . . . point to all your evidence that there is insufficient solar/wind/battery storage.

I'll wait . . .

SamO | 12/07/2017

Nope. I don't agree with any of that. The evidence for nuclear's un-safety is abundant. It is also NOT a renewable energy resource.

I'll try not to burst any (strawmen) bubbles. Nuclear is going away because it is terrible. For the financial reasons above, as well as the very human reasons: safety.

But please . . . point to all your evidence that there is insufficient solar/wind/battery storage.

I'll wait . . .

nadurse | 12/07/2017

Well at best you're misinformed then and at worst a hypocrite, and judging by your attitude dont care to learn anything either.

Look guy I'm on the solar renewable energy bandwagon, but Im not turning a blind eye (like so many people on here) to technology that already accounts for roughly 20% of our energy produced today, and is viable to combat climate change.

Mike83 | 12/07/2017

Nuclear power is so successful and they are building them?
Ask the rate payers in San Diego bailing out the FAILED San Onofre Nuclear power plant leaving thousands of years of radioactive material right next to the ocean.
Ask Japan about the billions lost on land that is dead and displaced residents.
and so on.
You have to mine uranium and it is limited. Nuclear was the most expensive mistake made.
Viable? I think not.

Mike83 | 12/07/2017

Germany doesn't need Nuclear and they are shutting them done. Look up what France is doing. Nuclear is for losers.

SO | 12/07/2017

Nadurse- is the spent fuel from nuclear fission reactors safe to humans?

Is the fuel within the nuclear fission reactor safe to humans?

If the answer is no to either of these questions, then nuclear fission is not as great as you portray it.

Yes fossil fuel is bad. But I also don't like the idea of an area being off limits for decades or longer due to an accident. Also, you don't need weapons grade material in order to make a dirty bomb. If the nuclear facilities are as safe to humans as you say, they wouldn't need armed guards at a higher concentration than other power plants.

The other points are Fukushima was NOT using the latest technology. And neither are many other plants.

You have to look beyond just the plant itself. Look at the potential target and waste well after the fact.

SamO | 12/07/2017

Mike83 covered most of my points.

1. Nuclear isn't renewable
2. Nuclear isn't safe
3. Nuclear isn't cost effective
4. Nuclear IS zero carbon

1/4 ain't great.

Dramsey | 12/07/2017

"1. Nuclear isn't renewable"

Sure it is:

But who cares? Radioactive elements decay whether you leave 'em in the ground or put 'em in a reactor. Might as well use them. The reason breeder reactors are so rare is that there's SO MUCH URANIUM.

"2. Nuclear isn't safe"

Nuclear is in fact the safest power generation method ever devised, MUCH safer than solar, when reckoned by deaths per kilowatt-hour:

I would note in passing that the total number of fatalities from the Fukushima meltdown so far

"3. Nuclear isn't cost effective"

Might have to give you that one. Definitely answering this question would require more effort than I'm willing to devote.

nadurse | 12/07/2017

Is high voltage electricity safe to humans? Are exposure to rare earth metals safe to humans? Is mining lithium safe to humans?

No, there are many things that in their unexposed state will kill humans but these things are useful to society, but you put safety measure in place to protect people, prevent exposure and manage the risk so nuclear is no different. The amount of unusable waste is minuscule to the amount of energy that is produced over the life of the uranium, and as I stated, there is already a plan in place to safely contain this waste.

Most of the so-called safety concerns over nuclear are hyperbole and are not grounded in any technical argument. Its akin to looking at early electric cars that burned to the ground due to thermal runaway and saying, EVs are dangerous theres no way they can be adopted. Well, no that thinking is dumb you just have to design a better EV and manage battery pack cooling, which they have done. Same goes for nuclear power, you look at reactors that were designed and built 30-50 years ago and say look at this containment issue they had, theres no way nuclear can be safe. Well, no that thinking is dumb you just have to design better safety mechanisms and things like passive cooling, WHICH THEY HAVE DONE.

SCCRENDO | 12/07/2017

Read my links. They are more balanced than your opinion. Do you have any sources to support your opinion?

SO | 12/07/2017

@nadurse - I don't equate high voltage (that can be turned off) the same as radiation that lasts many years, as the same thing.

There is a huge difference between the two.

I guess if you count entire cities being uninhabitable as "minuscule ", well.... no wonder we don't agree.

SamO | 12/07/2017

1. Breeder reactors are operating where . . .

2. Dead link. But assuming arguendo that you COULD capture exploration, mining, handling, employee, and track long term cancers effectively of everyone exposed to gas-offs, meltdowns, and unreported accidents, trucking and and storage, there is no comparable baseline of injuries for solar and batteries. In fact, injuries and deaths in the roof industry will be independent since the human cost of installing solar roofs (where a regular roof would have been installed) is likely a zero.

3. Thanks for playing. The reason you can't is that there are hundreds of billions of dollars in unpriced externalities that libertarians never want to account for. This team with UT Austin made an attempt:
Technology $/kW
Coal, bit CCS 30* 4,766
NGCC CCS 90 2,095
Nuclear 8,000(F31)
Wind 1,827(F32)
Solar PV, util. 1,900(F33)

SO | 12/07/2017

Any power generation process that requires something like this in order to "bury the problem", is not a great process. Not only do you have to pay to bury it, you have to pay to monitor it and you can not build there for many lifetimes. Uses up already precious land.

finman100 | 13/07/2017

Accident at a wind farm...releases a slight breeze.
Accident at a solar farm...releases a slight sunburn.

I don't see nuclear competing at all in A LOT of categories. Especially that $ one. Which is a pretty big one.

Why can't we do the right thing a little more often than not? Our species is smart, right? why in the world would we want to pollute our only home when PERFECTLY logical and clean energy is viable?

SO | 13/07/2017

A person is smart. People are dumb.

Great line in Men in Black.

Earl and Nagin ... | 13/07/2017

@finman100, +1
I've heard it said that a major fuel spill for solar energy is called "a nice sunny day" :-)
On the other hand, while I hesitate to contribute to the derailing of this coal thread into anti-nuke:
Nuclear can be done a lot safer and cleaner than the commercial power plants, with nearly zero radioactive waste products, however, it is extremely expensive to do it that way and it completely blows the economic side of the equation. The US Navy does it this way (extremely expensive but clean and fairly safe), but, then, their operators live a few feet away from their reactors so they have a vested interest in safety and containing the radiation.

SamO | 13/07/2017

Things from the past:

Whale Oil

Wind + Solar + Battery will replace the entire list. It is only apparent how inefficient fossil fuels are, when they are gone.

See: Tesla Model S and X,