the country’s power for the foreseeable future.
Because China will account for so much of the world’s new power generation capacity over the next couple of decades, according to Houser, the innovation choices made in China will be crucial not just for that country but also for the rest of the world. He suggested that it is crucially important to get the incentives for cleaner technologies right in China because the country’s huge market and position as a global manufacturing base for energy technology. If China builds a large amount of capacity with wind power, for example, world prices for that technology will drop significantly. But the same is true of dirtier technologies such as pulverized coal. Costs will go down, encouraging increased worldwide use.
Lifeng Zhao of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government spoke on prospects for clean coal technologies under development in China. Agreeing with Houser that coal will dominate China’s energy needs for the next few decades, she said that as a result, China is focusing a great deal of attention on clean coal technologies.
A number of agencies in China are funding a variety of approaches to clean coal technology, Zhao said. A great deal of attention is being paid to increasing efficiency, for instance, and to various pollution control technologies. New coal-fired plants are being equipped with flue gas desulfurization (FGD) units, and existing plants will need to be retrofitted with the FGD units to meet standards on emissions of sulfur dioxide. New plants are also setting aside space for future flue gas denitrification equipment installations, and emission standards are being prescribed for nitrogen oxides.
The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology is supporting R&D efforts in a number of coal technologies, including circulation fluidized boiler (CFB) plants, which are high efficiency and low polluting; ultrasupercritical pulverized coal power generation technology, which is also high efficiency but has back-end clean-up to keep emissions at a minimum; integrated gasification combined cycle plants, which can be almost as clean as plants burning natural gas; and coal gasification and liquification technologies. Some of these technologies have already been put to work in China, Zhao said. In April 2005 China opened a 300-megawatt CFB plant made with imported technology and equipment; and in June 2006 it started up a 300-megawatt CFB plant that was made domestically. More than ten other 300-megawatt CFB plants are currently under construction. Other innovative coal technologies being explored in China are direct hydrogen production from coal and simultaneous carbon dioxide control and removal of gaseous pollutants during coal combustion.
Finally, Zhao noted, even though China is going to be heavily dependent on coal for the foreseeable future, there is still room for innovation in other sectors—nuclear, wind, and solar cell technology, among others—and other countries should be thinking of China as a market for innovative technologies in these areas.