Coal Fired Power Dying – Not So Fast – Part Two – Electrical Power Generation In China

Posted on Mon 05/31/2021 by


By Anton Lang ~

When it comes to China, there’s not much I agree with, in fact very little I do agree with. However, one thing I do agree with is the way they are going about their electrical power generation policy. This actually is one thing that they are doing right, and as much as the rest of the already Developed World grumbles about their implementation of coal fired power, well, in my opinion, that’s a case of those who do have access to constant and reliable electrical power trying to stop China having that same access to electrical power, because China is doing this with coal fired power, and therein lies the perceived problem, the emissions of Carbon Dioxide.

When it comes to that access to electrical power, I am always drawn back to one graph that shows the progress of electrical power generation, and that is the graph shown below, and this can be used for the sake of comparison. This graph shows the total power generation, and hence, the access to electrical power in the U.S. (This image, as with all other images here is sized to fit this page. However, if you click on the image, it will open at a new tab, and also at a larger size so you can see the detail better.)

The graph shows how electrical power consumption ramped up in the U.S. and it covers 71 years, starting in 1949, up until the end of last year 2020. Now here, you may think that as the population increased then so did electrical power consumption However, the population is only a little more than double what it was in 1949. However, electrical power consumption has risen by a factor of FIFTEEN. That happened because at the end of The Second World War, the U.S. industrialised at an absolutely huge rate to become far and away the major World Power they are. All of that new Industry required huge amounts of electrical power, reliable electrical power that was available on a constant basis. That power was provided by coal fired power. Nearly all of that generated power went first to Industry. In 1949, with such a tiny (by today’s standards) amount of power available, almost half of all the generated power was being consumed by Industry. Over the next decades that percentage of power being consumed by Industry rose as high as 55%, and it was not until 1993 that Industrial power consumption was passed by Residential power consumption, and now, in 2020, Industrial power consumption is in a very distant third place, and in fact Industry is only consuming 24% of all the generated power now. In those years since 1949 up until as recently as 2007, far and away the largest percentage of all power plants were coal fired plants. Large scale power plants of 2000MW+ were constructed, running four Units at each plant. To get all that power to Industry, then huge Transmission Infrastructure was also constructed. Hand in hand with all of this, the residential sector now gained more and more access to those huge amounts of power, until now, in 2020, 38.5% of all the generated power in the US goes to that Residential sector, 60% more than what is now being consumed by Industry.

Now roll forward to what is happening in China. It’s the same thing, and the trajectory of power consumption is also on a similar scale. Right now, The total generated power in China is 87% higher than the U.S. total generated power, and consider that it wasn’t until 2012/13 that China surpassed the US for total generated power, so the increase since then has been almost exponential. And, in a similar manner to the U.S. in those early years, most of that power is going to the Industrial sector, and wait for this, a huge 84% of all generated power in China is going to Industry. Also in the same manner, huge infrastructure is being put in place to get all that power to Industry. As that happens, then the Residential sector is also gaining access to electrical power, power in their homes, power that we in the Developed World already have, on tap, always there, readily available to all, and something we take so utterly for granted, so much in fact, that it is now considered a staple of our everyday life.

However, with the largest consumer in China being that Industrial sector, then the Residential sector only gets what is left, and right now in 2020, that is only just now getting close to 15%. So only a small fraction of that power is going to people’s homes. Okay, so China has a population of China is 1.4 Billion people now. As recently as 2009, the Residential sector in China was only getting 8% of all the generated power, and think about that for a minute. Even in the U.S. in 1949 when power generation was just starting to ramp up, 26% of all generated power was being consumed in the Residential sector.

Very few people in China had access to any electrical power in their homes even in 2008, and still, in 2020/21, there’s still very few people who have that same access to electrical power in their homes.

I can quote this data till the cows come home, and explain every intricacy of it all, and sometimes, it needs careful explanation, and the reader sometimes has to work hard to understand that data, and what it means. That’s my task here, to attempt to explain it in a manner which can be a little easier to understand.

So then, from all that data, let’s just look at the two things I said with relation to the availability of power in the residential sector in both the U.S. and also in China.

In the U.S. 38% of all the generated power goes to the residential sector, directly into people’s homes.

In China, 15% of all generated power goes to the residential sector, directly into people’s homes.

So, for the U.S. that’s 38% of 4009TeraWattHours, (TWH) so the Residential sector gets 1524TWH of electrical power to service the homes of the population. (U.S. Population 332 Million)

In China, that’s 14.6% of 7511TeraWattHours, so the Residential sector gets 1095TWH of electrical power to service the homes of the population. (China Population 1.4 Billion)

That alone starkly brings into focus one of the reasons China is ramping up electrical power generation in its Country.

In just the same manner as the U.S. ramped up its power generation to support Industry, and then the Residential Sector came along with that to the point where everyone has power in their homes in the U.S. then China is now doing exactly the same thing, only starting 45 to 50 years later, and now we are 70 years since the U.S. started.

What we have now in China is that 4.2 times as many people only have available 69.5% of the power that the US already has in their homes.

That screams out to me that in China, there is still a huge number of people who have NO electrical power at all in their homes, and those who do have it, have nowhere near as much as we already have in the Developed World.

So, we in that Western World can grumble all we like, but that would be a case of us denying the Chinese what we already have, constant access to reliable electrical power.

To that end, China is rapidly ramping up power generation in their Country, not just coal fired power, but power generation from every source. China currently leads the World in power generation totals from nearly all sources of power generation.

The big difference here, however, is that when it comes to China, they have the latest technology for power plants, and they are not backward in constructing those new power plants, using that most recent technology.

When it comes to coal fired power, as I mentioned in the earlier Post, there are five levels of coal fired power technology.

Sub Critical, Critical, SuperCritical, UltraSuperCritical, and recently, Advanced UltraSuperCritical.

Here in the Developed World, we started back at the end of World War Two, and we only had access to the first two of them, Sub Critical, and Critical, and now nearly all of them have reached the end of their long lives, up to and beyond 50 years.

In China they also has those low tech plants, Sub Critical and Critical Plants, The oldest tech Sub Critical were nearly all of them ranging in Nameplate from 1W up to 100MW, most of them in the 2MW to 20MW range, and just like here in ‘The West’, those smaller plants serviced small areas. As those larger plants opened, and infrastructure was put in place, then those small plants closed ….. in their hundreds all across China. That left the Critical plants, and nearly all of them were in that 300MW range, and quite a lot of them are still in operation, all across China.

As that new technology developed, China was one of the first, if not the first Country to construct those new tech plants.

In 1994, China brought on line one of the first SuperCritical coal fired power plants, and in 2008, China was one of the first Countries to construct an UltraSperCritical coal fired power plant. Now in 2020, China has become one of the first Countries in the World to construct one of the latest technology plants, an Advanced UltraSuperCritical coal fired power plant.

They haven’t stopped there however.

China is now retrofitting those older Critical 300MW plants to bring them almost up to the level of USC.

Because of what they are doing, ALL of those coal fired power plants in China emit less Carbon Dioxide (CO2) than the equivalent Nameplate total for coal fired power generation in the rest of the World, almost 18% less CO2 in fact.

However, let what I wrote above sink in to see one reason why China is doing this. As part of the whole process for power generation, more people in China will now have access to electrical power in their homes. We already have that access to power, and we should not be denying all those people the chance to have what we already have, and take so much for granted. Then scroll up and look again at that graph for power generation as it happened in the U.S. China is now around a quarter of the way up that graph.

In the next Post, I will detail what China is doing when it comes to coal fired power.

Anton Lang uses the screen name of TonyfromOz, and he writes at this site, PA Pundits International on topics related to electrical power generation, from all sources, concentrating mainly on Renewable Power, and how the two most favoured methods of renewable power generation, Wind Power and all versions of Solar Power, fail comprehensively to deliver levels of power required to replace traditional power generation. His Bio is at this link.