Sunsetting coal power in China
Reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired electricity generation in China is critical 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, due to limitations in the scalability of hydropower, nuclear, and natural gas generation and the commercial availability of carbon capture and storage. This paper examines the resource, economic, and institutional implications of reducing and replacing coal generation in China with mostly renewable energy and energy storage by 2040. We find that the scale of solar, wind, and storage resources needed to do so is on the order of 100–150 GW/year of solar and wind capacity and 15 GW/year of energy storage from 2020 to 2025, growing to 250 GW/year and 90 GW/year, respectively, from 2025 to 2040. We then also evaluate the sensitivities if coal plants are retired by 2050.