Last coal power plant in Beijing shut down as city switches to natural gas

The last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing, China has been shut down, following Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s promise to “make our skies blue again” at the start of this year’s top legislative meetings.

The Huaneng Beijing Thermal Power Plant has provided China’s capital with 845,000 kilowatts of power to heat 26 million square meters of the city by burning 1.76 million tons of coal annually since 1999.

With the plant’s closing, Beijing switched to natural gas for its electricity source, becoming the country’s first city to have all its power plants fueled by natural gas.

Since 2013, Beijing has shut down four coal-powered plants, replacing them with plants powered by natural gas, and cutting nearly 10 million tons in coal emissions annually. There are now 27 power plants in the city, and urban planners have no plans to build any new large-scale ones in the future

Currently, smog has cloaked the capital for several days and is expected to continue through the week.

Since last week’s closing of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the annual meeting of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, PM2.5 (harmful particulate) levels have remained between 200 and 330 micrograms per cubic meter – well above the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended maximum average exposure of 25 micrograms per cubic meter in a 24-hour period.

The pollution often vanishes during prominent events like the legislative sessions and the 2008 Summer Olympics as authorities order factories to halt activity and force cars off the road.

During the 2014 gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Beijing, this clear air phenomenon was dubbed “APEC blue.”

During the one-week-and-a-half period of the NPC, average PM2.5 levels hovered between 50 and 80, despite exceeding 200 micrograms per cubic meter just one day before the opening of the parliamentary sessions on March 5.

“We may not be able to control the weather, but we can adjust our behavior and our way of development,” he said.”Blue skies should no longer be a luxury, nor will they be.”

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