China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has ordered the cessation or postponement of 104 coal-fired power projects in 13 provinces scattered around the country.

The body responsible for formulating and implementing energy development plans and industrial policies issued the order on January 16 to achieve goals to cap national installed coal capacity at 1,100 GW as outlined in its 13th Five-Year plan (2016–2020). The country’s current coal capacity hovers at about 920 GW.

The order affects projects worth a total 120 GW. About 54 GW of that capacity are reportedly projects already under construction.

It is the latest effort by China’s government to reign in a coal capacity glut stemming from falling power demand on the back of an economic slowdown. The country also wants to tamp down its carbon emissions and slash pollution. In its March 2016–released 13th Five-Year Plan, China set targets to reduce its carbon and energy intensity by 18% from 2015 levels while also seeking to grow the country’s economy by more than 6.5% per year over the next five years. This will be a first step toward achieving its Paris Agreement pledge to reduce carbon intensity 60% to 65% from 2005 levels by 2030.

In April 2016, the National Development and Reform Commission and NEA jointly issued and order to suspend or slow plans for more than 100 GW of coal-fired capacity—nearly 200 plants that were in development but not yet under construction—to curb overcapacity in the generation sector. In July, reports emerged that the 13th Five-Year Plan would extend a ban on new coal plant construction nationwide at least through 2018. In October, the government reportedly ordered a halt to construction on at least 30 coal-fired power plants totaling 17 GW of capacity.

Preliminary energy data released by the NEA says that total electricity consumption rose by 5% in 2016, owing primarily to a 2.9% increase in electricity demand from industry, 5.3% from the agricultural sector, 11.2% from the services sector, and 11% from households.

The country’s power capacity mix also changed markedly in 2016. It added 24% more nuclear power capacity (about 34 GW), 3.9% more hydropower capacity, and 5.3% more thermal capacity than in 2015. Grid-connected renewables saw a surge of 13.2% for wind and 82% for solar compared to 2015.


Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)