31 Jul 2009 14:40

Economic downturn expedites shutdown of China's small-scale thermal power generators

By Victor Wang

Shanghai. July 31. INTERFAX-CHINA - The global economic downturn has expedited the Chinese government's shutdown of small-scale thermal power generators, according to National Energy Agency (NEA) statistics released on July 30.

As of June 30, the central government had shut down 7,467 small-scale thermal power generators since 2006, which had an aggregate installed capacity of 54.07 million kilowatts (kW), the NEA said in a press conference in Beijing on July 30. Small-scale generators are those with less than 200,000 kW of installed capacity.

Shrinking power demand due to the downturn forced down the operation hours of many small-scale generators over the past few months while others were left completely idle, according to the NEA.

The situation helped the NEA meet its 2010 goal of shutting down 50 million kW of small-scale generators a year and a half in advance.

The NEA's campaign was most successful in Guangdong, Henan, Jiangsu, Shandong and Hebei provinces, shutting down 31.46 million kW of small-scale generators, or 58 percent of the total amount taken offline in China, according to the NEA.

China's largest five state power generators, China Huaneng Group, China Huadian Corp., China Datang Corp., China Power Investment Corp., and China Guodian Corp. took offline small-scale thermal generators with installed capacity of 22.33 million kW, accounting for 41.3 percent of the total amount.

The NEA said that the closures will substantially benefit the environment. A thermal power generator with an installed capacity of below 200,000 kW consumes about 450 grams of coal for each kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity it produces, whereas a generator with an installed capacity of above 600,000 kW uses about 299 grams per kWh.

The closure of 7,467 small-scale generators could save China 62.40 million tons of coal, as well as reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 1.06 million tons and carbon dioxide emissions by 124 million tons annually, the NEA said. Nevertheless, more than 80 million kW of small-scale generators are still operating in China.

The NEA said that the closure of small-scale thermal power generators would not affect China's electricity supply. By the end of 2008, China's total installed capacity was 790 million kW. Even though a large proportion of China's new installed capacity still comes from large-scale thermal power generators, renewable energy generators are gradually becoming a greater part of the country's energy mix, the NEA said.