China's Restrictions on Development of Coal-Fired Power Capacity

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of China and coal

In 2016, China's National Energy Administration and National Development and Reform Commission began issuing a series of restrictions on coal-fired power development in the country. The restrictions followed a large permitting boom that began when control over permitting was devolved from the central government to the provinces in late 2014.

The table below lists the series of measures that define the scope of the restrictions.

Table 1. Summary of Restrictions on New Coal-Fired Power Capacity

Date Policy No. Rule Link
March 17, 2016 NDRC Energy [2016] 565 / 发改能源 [2016] 565号 China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) released guidelines for regulating coal power development to crack down on the severe and growing coal power overcapacity crisis. The guideline states: 1) cancel permitting for unqualified coal power projects, 2) 13 provinces and regions should “strictly control” new coal capacity and delay the approval of new projects until after 2017, 3) a slightly longer list of provinces - 15, with considerable overlap - were told to put off construction of approved coal projects that had not yet broken ground.
13 provinces that should suspend new approvals through 2017: Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Inner Mongolia, Jiangsu, Ningxia, Shandong, Shanxi, and Yunnan.
15 provinces that should half initiation of new construction through 2017: Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Jiangsu, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, and Yunnan.
March 17, 2016 NEA Electricity [2016] 42 / 国能电力 [2016] 42号 Traffic light system: along with the NRDC guidelines, China's National Energy Administration (NEA) released the Coal Bubble Alert System on the same day, dubbed the ‘traffic light’ system. The System introduces a coal power planning risk management mechanism for provinces based on three factors: 1) the profitability of their coal-fired generation, 2) their existing coal capacity, and 3) their "resource constraints," such as water availability and air quality. Based on these three factors, each province was assigned a color to signify the viability of their coal pipeline. Red means no new coal projects should be permitted. Orange indicates local governments and coal companies should tread carefully. And green indicates space for new coal. The notice designated 26 provinces as red light areas, one as orange (Hubei), and three as green (Jiangxi, Anhui and Hainan). [2]
March 17, 2016 NDRC Energy [2016] 565 / NEA Electricity [2016] 42 Exemptions to NRDC 565 and NEA 42: Combined heat and power (CHP) plants for residential heating and power, projects in "coal power bases" exporting power to other provinces, and projects supporting poverty reduction in revolutionary areas and poor areas are exempted from the guidelines. [3]
April 2016 NDRC Energy [2016] 855 / 发改能源 [2016] 855 Phase out outdated coal power capacity: NDRC and NEA guidelines to accelerate the retirement of outdated coal-fired plants that use older, dirtier technology. There was 28 GW outdated coal-fired power capacity phased out in the 12th Five-Year-Plan (2010-2015) period. The national target for outdated coal power retirements for the 13th FYP period (2016-2020) is 20 GW. All provinces should set a retirement target for the 13th FYP by evaluating for retirement all small units ranging from 50 MW to 300 MW capacity that cannot meet emission and energy consumption limits after retrofit. [4]
September 13, 2016 NEA Electricity [2016] 244 / 国能电力 [2016] 244 NEA cancels 15 new coal projects (totaling 26 units, 12.4 GW) in nine provinces. [5]
October 10, 2016 NEA Electricity [2016] 275 NEA released supplementary guidelines to those released in March 2016. The supplementary guidelines suspended construction that began in 2016 or later to all provinces that have a red light under the traffic light system, if the plants are for province "self-use" (i.e. the power will be used within the province and not exported outside the province). It also ordered projects in coal power bases that were designed to export power to other provinces to "scale down" to about half of the planned capacity within 2020. CHP plants for residential heating and power are exempted, as well as projects in poor areas and national demonstration projects. [6]
October 16, 2016 NEA Electricity [2016] 282 / 国能电力 [2016] 282 NEA targets to retire 5 GW outdated coal power capacity in 2016. [7]
November 7, 2016 China's 13th Five-Year Plan placed a cap on coal power capacity of 1,100 GW in 2020. About 150 GW of approved and under construction coal power projects will need to be cancelled or postponed to meet the 1,100 GW cap by 2020. [8]
January 16, 2017 To help meet the coal capacity limit set out in China's 13th Five-Year Plan, NEA sent letters to 13 provinces to enforce the suspension of over 100 specific coal plants under planning or construction, totaling nearly 100 GW of capacity. In the letters, it said the projects included should be postponed to the 14th Five Year period (2021-2025). The NEA also put “scale control” limits on the amount of coal capacity that can be exported from particular power base areas, expanding on the October 10, 2016 NEA 275 policy. [9]
April 20, 2017 NEA Electricity [2017] 106 / 国能电力 [2017] 106 China's NEA updated its March 2016 "traffic light" system. Under the update, 24 provinces were issued a red light, four orange (Anhui, Henan, Hubei, Jiangxi), and two green (Hainan, Hunan). [10]
August 3, 2017 NDRC Energy [2017] 1404 / 发改能源 [2017] 1404 In July the NEA released the "Guideline of Supply-Side Reform of the Coal Power Bubble". The Guideline included a draft list which slowed down or halted 185 coal-burning units across 21 provinces, totaling 107 GW. 114 coal units (65 GW) are ordered to slow down the construction progress during 2017 to 2020, and are not allowed to connect to the grid in 2017. In addition, 71 coal units (42 GW) were halted indefinitely for regulation violations. The list partly overlapped with the projects listed in the January NEA letter to 13 provinces. [11]
September 26, 2017 NDRC Energy [2017]1727 / 发改能源 [2017] 1727 After political negotiations over the plants listed in NRDC 1404, NEA released an updated list of postponed and halted coal projects. The new list contained 151 units totaling 93 GW. [12]
August 7, 2017 NEA Electricity [2017] 45 / 国能电力 [2017] 45 NEA targets to retire 4.7GW of outdated coal power capacity in 2017. [13]
May 31, 2018 《2021年煤电规划建设风险预警》 China's National Energy Administration (NEA) updated its ‘traffic light’ system. In 2018, six provinces were issued a green light (Anhui, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, and Shaanxi), and three provinces (Liaoning, Hennan, and Sichuan) were issued an orange light. [14][15]
March 27, 2019 《国家能源局关于发布2022年煤电规划建设风险预警的通知 国能发电力〔2019〕31号 China's National Energy Administration (NEA) updated its ‘traffic light’ system. In 2019, 15 regions were issued a green light (Chongqing, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Qinghai, Sichuan, West Inner Mongolia, Yunnan, and the non-major areas of Hebei North, Hennan, and Shaanxi). Two provinces (Fujian and Liaoning) were issued an orange light. All others are red. [16]
February 26, 2020 国家能源局关于发布2023年煤电规划建设风险预警的通知 China's National Energy Administration (NEA) updated its ‘traffic light’ system. In 2020, 19 regions were issued a green light (Chongqing, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Liaoning, Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan, and the non-major areas of Hebei North, Hennan, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Shandong). Three provinces (Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Xinjiang) were issued an orange light. All others are red. [17]

Scale Control in Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Xinjiang

China's central planners in the National Energy Administration created controls on particular "sending out" locations that feed ultra-high voltage (UHV) long-distance power lines. There are six such locations: Inner Mongolia (Xilingol), Inner Mongolia (Ordos), Shaanxi, Ningxia, Shanxi, and Xinjiang. Overall, the effect of the policies is to scale down the amount of coal-fired capacity in the regions by about half of the planned capacity, with development ceased on all excess capacity through 2020.

As of June 2018, all power bases appear to be meeting the scale control limits except for four, listed in the table below, totaling 9,300 MW of excess coal-fired capacity:

Transmission Line Power Base Province Capacity allowed (MW) Capacity moving forward (MW) Excess capacity (MW)
Western Mongolia-Tianjin Ordos Inner Mongolia 3300 5280 1980
Shanghai Temple-Shandong Ordos Inner Mongolia 4000 6000 2000
Yuheng-Weifang Northern Shaanxi Shaanxi 2660 4000 1340
Eastern Ningxia-Zhejiang Eastern Ningxia Ningxia 5300 9280 3980

Projects that may violate the restrictions

The following projects appear to be moving forward in permitting, construction, or operation despite being told to either postpone or stop development by China's National Energy Administration and/or China's National Development and Reform Commission.

Henan province

  • Henan Xin'an power station IV, 2 x 600 MW - Construction on the power station began in August 2016.[18] In October 2016 the NEA released NEA Electricity [2016] 275, which states red light provinces, such as Henan, should suspend construction that began in 2016 or later. A July 2017 article in Xin'an County News reported construction on Xin'an IV coal plant was ongoing,[19] although Planet satellite images through March 2018 show limited construction progress.

Inner Mongolia

  • Chuangyuan Smelter power station Units 4-6 - the units were ordered in September 2017 to stop development indefinitely due to permit violations, however satellite photos show construction continued on units 4-6 immediately after the suspension, and has continued through June 2018.
  • Huolinhe Zhanute power station unit 5 - Based on satellite data through May 2018, unit 5 continued to operate after ordered to stop operations indefinitely for permit violations in September 2017.


  • Linyou Waste Coal power station Units 1-2 - These units were on a list of units told to postpone development indefinitely in September 2017 for regulation violations, however Planet satellite photos from July 2017 to May 2018 suggest construction is ongoing at a rapid pace, with the coal plant near completion.


  • Shandong Weiqiao Group - In 2018, China's Environmental Protection Inspection Group 3 issued a report saying Shandong Weiqiao Group illegally built 45 coal power units in Shandong since 2013.[22] In May 2018, the Shandong Provincial government responded to the inspection report with a plan to address the violations. According to the province, 33 of Weiqiao's 45 illegally built coal power plants had since completed the necessary procedures to receive environment clearance and continue operating; 12 units did not complete any procedures and should stop construction and operation immediately: the eight-unit Weiqiao Zouping-1 power station and the four-unit Weiqiao Zhanhua power station.[23][24]
  • Huadian Laizhou power station, Units 3-4 - Construction on units 3-4 began in May 2016.[25] In October 2016 the NEA released NEA Electricity [2016] 275, which states red light provinces, such as Shandong, should suspend construction that began in 2016 or later. A January 2018 news article stated construction is ongoing at the power station.[26]
  • JV County Fengyuan Cogen power station, 2 x 350 MW (Units 5-6) - The project's EIA was rejected by the Shandong Provincial EPA in January 2017.[27] Despite lacking a permit, in April 2017 there was news that construction had begun on the power station.[28] In August 2017, the project was fined 300,000 RMB (US$45,000) for its violation of EIA procedures.[29] Planet satellite imagery through April 2018 suggests the plant is nearing completion. Its sponsor Haoyu Materials Group was also fined by the Provincial EPA in 2014 and again in 2016 for pollution problems at its facilities.[30]
  • Xinyuan Aluminum power station, 9 x 660 MW, Units 1-9 - All nine units of this power station were constructed without a permit. Units 1-6 were commissioned in 2015-6, and units 7-9 are under construction. In September 2017 and May 2018 China's MEP ordered owner Xinfa Group to stop all operation and development at the plant for permit violations,[31] but Planet satellite images through June 2018 show the plant continues with both operation and construction.

Articles and resources


  1. NDRC Energy [2016 565,] China NRDC and NEA, March 17, 2016
  2. NDRC Energy [2016 565,] China NRDC and NEA, March 17, 2016
  3. NDRC Energy [2016 565,] China NRDC and NEA, March 17, 2016
  4. NDRC Energy [2016 855,] China NRDC and NEA, April 2016
  5. NEA Electricity [2016 244,] China NEA, September 13, 2016
  6. NEA Electricity [2016 275,] China NEA, October 10, 2016
  7. NEA Electricity [2016 282,] China NEA, October 16, 2016
  8. China's 13th Five-Year Plan, China NEA, November 7, 2016
  9. "能源局下发13省市新建火电机组停建清单(附文件)," BJX, January 16, 2017
  10. NEA Electricity [2017 106,] China NEA, April 20, 2017
  11. NDRC Energy [2017 1404,] China NRDC, August 3, 2017
  12. NDRC Energy [20171727,] China NRDC, September 26, 2017
  13. NEA Electricity [2017 45,] China NEA, August 7, 2017
  14. "2021年煤电规划建设风险预警:又有四省新开绿灯," China NEA, May 31, 2018
  15. "Circular on 2021 risk and early warning for coal power planning and construction," China Energy Portal, May 14, 2018
  16. "Circular on 2022 risk and early warning for coal power planning and construction," China Energy Portal, May 14, 2018
  17. "Circular on 2023 risk and early warning for coal power planning and construction," China Energy Portal, May 14, 2018
  18. "河南万基控股集团2X60万千瓦机组上大压小项目正式开工," 超级管理员, 2016-08-04
  19. "万基2×60万千瓦机组上大压小项目有序推进," 新安县新闻中心, 2017-6-9
  20. "2017年分省煤电停建和缓建项目名单," Sohu, 2017-10-12
  21. Photos of 33.807099, 110.0629 in July and November 2017, Planet, May 2018
  22. "魏桥因自备电厂再遭点名 违规建设发电机组45台," Jiemian, 2018/05/31
  23. "山东省公开中央环境保护督察整改方案," China MEP, 2018年05月29日
  24. "滨州市中央环保督察反馈问题整改情况公示表(第三批)," Shandong Province MEP, July 2, 2018
  25. "诚信在线华电莱州发电有限公司二期2×1000MW超超临界机组工程诚信在线泵及废水回收水泵等设备二次招标," 中国诚信在线处理工程网, 2018-3-28
  26. "华电国际打造“智慧电厂”样本 莱州电厂实现废水零排放," 证券日报, 2018年01月24日
  27. "日照某明星企业,你再得瑟啊," Jan 19, 2017
  28. "山东日照一家族企业带头制造雾霾且屡教不改," May 22, 2017
  29. "017年行政处罚信息公开(8.9)," Juxian County 0125-01-2017-000171, 2017-08-09
  30. "5次通报挂牌督办 为何管不住一家污染企业," 中国经济网作, 2014-11-17
  31. "山东省公开中央环境保护督察整改方案 - 环保部," China MEP, May 29, 2018

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