From Watts Up With That?
Essay by Eric Worrall
There is something very Chinese about building co-located coal plants, to stabilise output from their solar and wind plants.
Climate change: China’s green power surge offers hope on warming
By Matt McGrath & Mark Poynting
BBC News Climate & Science
Wind and solar power are booming in China and may help limit global carbon emissions far faster than expected, according to a new study.
Solar panel installations alone are growing at a pace that would increase global capacity by 85% by 2025.
The report says the country’s green energy targets for 2030 look set to be exceeded five years ahead of schedule.
But coal plants are also increasing, partly as backup for all the new wind and solar farms, the authors say.
When we think of China, we think of people who (other than Taiwan) have an almost unbroken tradition of thousands of years of autocratic rule. But its easy to forget those same people have thousands of years of practice creatively interpreting the orders they are not allowed to disobey.
President Xi ordered them to build renewable plants, but renewable plants are unreliable. So the Chinese power plant owners are also building cheap coal plants to stabilise the output of their renewables. That way, they obey the central committee command to build more solar and wind, but also keep their stable and affordable energy supply.
No doubt if Xi orders them to close the coal plants, they’ll switch to gas instead – and put coal gasifiers next door to the re-purposed gas plants.
If Xi orders them to remove the gassifiers, they will relocate the gassifiers a plausible distance from the coal plants, so they can deny they knew they were receiving gas generated from coal, and lay a pipeline to from the gasifier to the gas generator.
If Xi orders them to remove the remote gassifiers, they’ll simply shut down the economy whenever the renewable power supply fails, until the Chinese Central Committee backs off.
A major quota driven economic shutdown actually happened in 2021, after everyone burned through their annual emissions reduction coal quota in 6 months. President Xi was apparently trying to pimp the Chinese economy’s success in reducing emissions, but as frequently occurs in Communist run states, the initiative got out of control. From what I have experienced of Chinese culture, I’m guessing everyone started trying to impress their boss by offering convincing arguments that even greater cuts were possible, amplifying the original orders to absurdity.
Disobedience and critical feedback are not an option in nations where the boss can have you shot, even when the instructions are absurd. So everyone accepted the quotas, but kept burning coal at more or less their normal rate. If anything an energy consumption race likely developed – nobody wanted to be left short if any new quota releases occurred, so everyone would have wanted to burn through their coal quota as quickly as possible.
When the coal quota ran out, regional managers simply shut down the Chinese economy, and waited until new orders were issued. The Central Committee caved, everyone blamed everyone else, and business at usual was allowed to resume.
My question – will the BBC write nice articles about our green progress, if Western energy companies start playing this game, and build co-located coal plants to firm Western renewable energy plants? Or does the BBC only give coal plant passes to communist dictatorships?