Coal

Beijing’s Last Coal Power Plant Ceases Operation, Air Pollution Still a Concern

Beijing, China—a city known for its dreadful air pollution—no longer has any large coal-fired power plants adding to the problem.

The Huaneng Beijing Thermal Power Plant’s final unit suspended operations on March 18, marking the end of coal-fueled generation in the city. Beijing’s power is now being supplied by what Xinhua (the Chinese government’s official news agency) called “clean energy.”

The truth is, natural gas–fired facilities have mostly taken the place of the coal plants. Although gas does release fewer emissions than coal, it is still a fossil fuel and not what comes to mind when most people think of “clean energy” sources.

The Huaneng plant was a relatively new combined-heat-and-power plant comprising five units, the last four of which began operations in 1999. When all units were running, it was capable of generating 845-MW and supplying a 26-square-kilometer (10-square-mile) district heating system.

To take its place, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems supplied four gas turbines, at least two of which will operate in a combined cycle configuration for cogeneration purposes. Nonetheless, the coal plant will remain available, at least for the time being, as an emergency supply for the city’s heating system.

Discontinuing coal power generation hasn’t solved all of Beijing’s air pollution problems, however. Only one day after the plug was pulled on the Huaneng plant, a smog alert was issued for heavy air pollution.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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