Improving energy mix

Updated: 2012-03-13 08:19

(China Daily)

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Several energy and environment articles published in March covered the switch in Beijing from coal to gas burning power plants, the monitoring of PM2.5 pollution and the expansion of China's nuclear energy program. They raise important issues for China's development.

The municipal authorities are right to prioritize the monitoring of PM2.5 particles, as these have a known health effect. Transport policy that reduces car use is critical to lowering particulates. But if there is a wholesale switch to natural gas in power plants in cities like Beijing and surrounding areas, this will require large volumes of gas imports. Gas prices are linked to oil prices; so this will come at a cost and increase China's dependency on imports. China has some of the cleanest coal power plants in the world and so coal should still be considered in the nation's energy mix.

Meanwhile, nuclear plants take a long time to build and come with potentially very high costs, as the Fukushima accident in Japan highlighted.

There are also other initiatives that can help produce greater energy efficiency. Ultra-supercritical boilers, such as the four large plants at Yuhan in Zhejiang province show what can be done. In a combined heat and power format such plants can achieve overall thermal efficiency of 80 percent, reducing pollution, including particulates, and cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent.

Dave Feickert, via e-mail

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(China Daily 03/13/2012 page10)