Quantcast

Confusion Reigns Over China’s Energy Policy

Energy
China is enlarging Serbia's coal-fired Kostolac power plant. Mazbin, CC BY-SA 3.0

By Kieran Cooke

It's quite easy these days to find yourself muddled over China's energy policy: it often seems to amount to tackling domestic pollution and climate change, but chasing lucrative contracts abroad, despite the environmental impact.

With the U.S. under Donald Trump indicating it wants to withdraw from the Paris agreement, China is increasingly seen as a world leader in the battle to cut carbon emissions and prevent climate catastrophe.


Beijing is implementing ambitious renewable energy schemes at home and has announced plans to reshape its energy sector and reduce its use of coal—by far the most polluting fossil fuel.

But overseas, China is pursuing a very different policy. Here in Serbia a Chinese enterprise, China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), recently started work on a multi-million dollar project to enlarge the coal-fired Kostolac power station on the banks of the Danube river in the east of the country.

Under the terms of the $715 million contract, the Chinese will build an additional 350 MW unit at Kostolac and expand operations at a nearby opencast mine producing lignite—the "dirtiest" coal

Urgewald, a Berlin-based environmental group, calculates that Chinese companies are at present involved in plans to build about a fifth of new coal-fired energy capacity around the world—in countries including Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Vietnam and Malawi.

In some of these countries there is little or no coal-powered generation at present; building coal plants is likely to prevent the development of other, less polluting energy sources and lock in high emission power structures for years to come.

China has used its considerable financial muscle to back up its global coal campaign; Chinese state banks are estimated to have provided more than $40 billion in loans over the past 18 years for building coal-fired power plants overseas. The majority of the funding for Serbia's Kostolac project is being provided by China's state-owned Export-Import Bank.

More than 70 percent of Serbia's energy comes from coal. Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), the Serbian state company which has a monopoly on electricity production, says the new plant, to be in operation by 2020, will meet the highest environmental standards and is necessary to satisfy ever-rising domestic energy demand.

Political Links

The Centre for Investigative Reporting of Serbia (CINS), a Belgrade-based group which has won international awards for its exposés of corruption within Serbia, has raised a number of concerns about the Kostolac project and how EPS—with what's considered its opaque financial structure and its strong links to the country's political elite—negotiated with the Chinese.

It says thorough environmental impact assessments were not carried out on the project and, contrary to international regulations, Romania—whose border is less than 20 kilometers (approximately 12 miles) from the Kostolac plant—was not consulted on the impact of the facility's expansion.

CINS also questions aspects of the contract between China and Serbia, which it says gives courts in China full power of arbitration in the event of any dispute; there are added concerns about the many hundreds of workers from China building the new plant, with few companies from Serbia itself involved in construction at Kostolac.

Air pollution is a considerable problem in Serbia, much of it due to emissions of CO2, ash, sulphur and nitrogen oxides from coal-fired power plants and mining operations.

EU Standards

People living near Kostolac—with houses close to the opencast mine which feeds the power plant—say there is a high rate of respiratory disease in the area; houses have also been damaged by land subsidence.

Serbia is in negotiations to join the European Union; critics of the country's energy policy say that in the future the government in Belgrade could incur fines of millions of dollars levied by Brussels because of emissions from power plants such as Kostolac.

The Serbian government says aging and highly polluting power plants like Kostolac have to be upgraded or replaced.

Chinese companies are heavily involved in developing coal power projects elsewhere in the Balkans region, most recently advancing millions of dollars in loans for the expansion of coal-fired power in Bosnia.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pixabay

By Claire L. Jarvis

A ruckus over biofuels has been brewing in Iowa.

Read More Show Less
Serena and Venus Williams have been known to follow a vegan diet. Edwin Martinez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Whitney E. Akers

  • "The Game Changers" is a new documentary on Netflix that posits a vegan diet can improve athletic performance in professional athletes.

  • Limited studies available show that the type of diet — plant-based or omnivorous — doesn't give you an athletic advantage.

  • We talked to experts about what diet is the best for athletic performance.

Packed with record-setting athletes displaying cut physiques and explosive power, "The Game Changers," a new documentary on Netflix, has a clear message: Vegan is best.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An illegally trafficked tiger skull and pelt. Ryan Moehring / USFWS

By John R. Platt

When it comes to solving problems related to wildlife trade, there are an awful lot of "sticky widgets."

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be both good and bad.

On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Dan Nosowitz

It's no secret that the past few years have been disastrous for the American farming industry.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and coconut oil are fats that have risen in popularity alongside the ketogenic, or keto, diet.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Bijal Trivedi

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.

Read More Show Less
Rool Paap / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Read More Show Less