Working Paper 007: Sunsetting Coal Power in China

TitleWorking Paper 007: Sunsetting Coal Power in China
Publication TypeUnpublished
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsFredrich Kahrl, Jiang Lin, Xu Liu, Junfeng Hu
Date Published09/2019
Type of WorkWorking Paper
Keywordsbattery electric storage, C02 emmissions, China, renewable energy, renewable energy policy

Reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired electricity generation in China will be critical to global efforts to limit global warming. Long-term projections of China’s electricity supply tend to assume that coal generation will be a mainstay of China’s electricity system through 2050, but it is unclear if and when carbon capture and storage will be viable at scale. This paper uses an analytical model to examine the resource, economic, and institutional implications of reducing and replacing coal generation in China with mostly renewable energy by 2040. We find that the scale of solar, wind, and storage resources needed to do so is extremely large — on the order of 100-150 GW yr-1 of solar and wind capacity and 15 GW yr-1 of battery storage from 2020 to 2025, growing to 250 GW yr-1 and 90 GW yr-1, respectively, from 2025 to 2040. However, the scale of new generation resources needed to meet 3-5 PWh (10-17 EJ) yr-1 of expected electricity demand growth in China by 2040 (relative to 2018) will be extremely large regardless of technology choices. Although the idea of terawatt-scale development of solar, wind, and batteries will naturally raise questions around feasibility, more important questions are around future technology costs (actual, not modeled), changes in institutions needed to support a mostly renewable electricity system in China, and transition issues.  

Refereed DesignationDoes Not Apply