Need to balance use of coal and renewables

2021-04-06 12:07:04

Aerial photo taken on Aug 19, 2020 shows wind turbines in Jiucaiping scenic spot in Southwest China's Guizhou province. [Photo/Xinhua] China has set a goal of peaking carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060, which calls for sustained measures and execution of those measures. However, carbon neutrality should not be an end in itself. While aiming to achieve carbon neutrality, China should strive to realize other goals too, such as reducing smog. Among researchers there is a consensus that PM2.5, inhalable particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less that is a health hazard, has much to do with humidity, and carbon emissions are the main cause of both environment pollution and climate change. That is why Ecology and Environment Minister Huang Runqiu said in January that the ministry will combine pollution monitoring and law enforcement to help reduce pollution and carbon emissions. That will require improving the domestic energy structure, particularly a shift away from coal. In fact, the whole process from mining coal to producing electricity needs to be improved. The surplus heat from thermal power plants can be used to provide central heating to communities and thus reduce humidity in the atmosphere. Measures should also be taken to remove other pollutants during the de-nitrification process. And the capturing and recycling of carbon dioxide from thermal power plants needs to be strengthened. The country does need new, clean sources of energy. But since China has huge coal reserves and it is relatively easy to use coal to generate energy, it has to find cleaner ways of using coal. The coal-mining industry, on its part, must also take measures to lower carbon emissions. Meanwhile, solar and wind energy generation and use should be intensified. In a nutshell, China's power industry must reduce the use of coal while tapping the potential of clean energy. -ZHOU HONGCHUN, A PROFESSOR AT THE DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH CENTER OF THE STATE COUNCIL