On 29 January, the Central Leading Group for the Inspection Work of Ecological and Environmental Protection (“inspection group”) announced the results of the inspection of the National Energy Administration (NEA).
The inspection group highlighted NEA’s efforts in promoting cleaner coal-fired power generation and clean heating. Nevertheless, the inspection group urged the NEA to make “rectifications and improvements” in several areas.
Coal-fired power generation was the most flagged area. The NEA had been not strict enough in controlling new coal-fired power plants. Within the priority regions of air pollution control, 12 provinces and cities saw increases of coal-fired power generation capacity during recent years.
Reducing coal consumption and constraining coal-fired power generation in the most polluted regions is one of the priorities in China’s three-year action plan for cleaner air (the “Battle for Blue Skies”) released in 2018 by the State Council.
Also, the NEA was criticized by the inspection group for not emphasizing sufficiently the environmental requirements within drafting of legislation and policy. Enforcement of environmental regulations in energy related industries was also considered insufficient according to the inspection group.
Since the 18th Congress of the party in 2012, the “central leading groups” have become essential agencies of policy making and enforcement. The Central Leading Group for the Inspection Work of Ecological and Environmental Protection was established in 2019 and is currently chaired by Han Zheng, member of the Standing Committee of Politburo and Vice-Premier of the State Council, former mayor then secretary general of Shanghai between 2003 and 2017.
The latest statistics of China’s electricity industry show that coal remains predominant as the base load power provider in China’s energy system. For the NEA, it faces a difficult challenge to lessen the national dependence on coal-fired plants, for achieving China’s climate change ambitions.