NU.nl daily checks messages for reliability. Claim: "Chinese companies are planning to build 1,171 new coal plants in the coming years."

Judgment: unproven

The Daily Standard reported on March 14 that Chinese companies want to build no less than 1,171 coal-fired power stations in the coming years. 80 percent of these coal-fired power stations would be located in China, the rest they would build in other countries. According to The Daily Standard, this would come on top of the 471 coal-fired power stations that are already being built in China. In total, according to The Daily Standard , the Chinese would build around fifteen hundred power stations in the coming years.

Where is it from?

The source of the message is a tweet from a Frisian entrepreneur. The tweet refers to a blog on the Energy Comparison website.

In this blog there is a slightly different explanation than in the part of The Daily Standard . It is also stated at Energy Comparison that 471 Chinese coal-fired power stations are currently under construction. But according to Energy Comparison, about 700 power stations are planned, which means that a total of 1,171 coal-fired power stations are being built by Chinese companies. And not fifteen hundred, as The Daily Standard wrote.

According to Energy Comparison , there are sixteen hundred new coal-fired power stations planned worldwide. Energy comparison writes that the figures about the number of coal-fired power plants that China is building come from The Global Coal Plant Tracker. This site does not record at all how many coal-fired power plants are being built by Chinese companies worldwide. They only have figures about the number of coal-fired power stations planned in China.

Is it right?

A number of figures are mentioned in an article by The New York Times from 2017, which are also mentioned in the article by Energievergelijk . The American newspaper wrote that in 2017 a total of sixteen hundred coal-fired power stations were built or were planned worldwide. Chinese companies are said to be planning to build seven hundred of these coal-fired power stations or were already building these power stations.

The newspaper based this on figures from Urgewald, a German environmental organization that tries to keep track of which companies are involved in building coal-fired power stations.

Urgewald wrote to NU.nl that the figures they provided to The New York Times in 2017 were rough estimates. The estimates were based on data from Urgewald himself and figures from The Global Coal Plant Tracker.

Difference between unit and coal-fired power station

Urgewald explains to NU.nl that they have calculated for The New York Times how many 'units' Chinese companies wanted to build worldwide. A unit is not the same as a coal-fired power station; a coal-fired power station can consist of several units. For example, the coal-fired power station in Eemshaven in Groningen has two units, but counts as one coal-fired power station in the figures.

Urgewald did not calculate how many coal-fired power plants Chinese companies wanted to build in 2017. Chinese companies then wanted to build around seven hundred units. That number has probably decreased in the meantime. Figures from The Global Coal Plant Tracker from January 2019 show that 148 coal-fired power stations (464 units) are being built or planned in China.

According to Urgewald, the main Chinese coal-fired power plants had plans for 39 coal-fired power plants (82 units) outside of China in January 2019, and in the summer of 2018 Chinese companies would be building around fifty coal-fired power plants outside of China.

Figures about coal-fired power stations

The Global Coal Plant Tracker uses multiple databases to determine how many coal-fired power plants are under construction worldwide. As far as we know, The Global Coal Plant Tracker is the only global database of coal-fired power stations.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), among others, has used figures from The Gobal Coal Plant Tracker for their reports. But, because there is no official database of coal-fired power plants planned in China, it is possible that there are errors in the figures of The Gobal Coal Plant Tracker.

Conclusion

The Daily Standard and Energy Comparison seem to have misinterpreted old figures from The Global Coal Plant Tracker and environmental organization Urgewald.

The most recent figures from Urgewald and The Global Coal Plant Tracker show that around 150 coal-fired power stations are under construction in China or are planned. The main Chinese coal-fired power plant builders are building around 50 coal-fired power plants outside of China and have a further 39 planned. However, it is not entirely clear whether these figures include all coal-fired power plants planned by Chinese companies.

This is why we consider the statement "Chinese companies are planning to build 1,171 new coal plants in the coming years" as unproven .

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