Eco focus sees Shanxi lead way in emissions reduction

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)

Updated: 2022-03-25


Taiyuan Iron and Steel Group is one of the few steelmakers in the world capable of producing broadsheet super-thin stainless steel foil with a thickness of less than 0.02 millimeters. WANG XUHONG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Province once famed for coal production now helping China fulfill carbon pledges

As a pilot province for industrial transformation and energy revolution, Shanxi in North China is contributing to the country's carbon targets.

Chinese authorities pledged to the international community last year that the country will reach peak carbon emissions in 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2060.

Shanxi is one of the major coal-mining and energy-producing provinces in China.

In recent years, the province has been running a campaign to transform its development model. It has been reducing its reliance on coal mining and other heavy industries, and prioritizing the development of clean energy resources and fostering emerging industries as new growth engines.

Local authorities said this economic transformation targets sustainable high-quality development with a balance between growth and environmental protection.

A recent move was that almost all of the province's 107 power-generating enterprises listed on the national carbon-trading market had completed their quota settlement for the first performance cycle. Local media reported that the quota completion rate reached 99.68 percent, 0.18 percentage points higher than the national average.

The national carbon-trading market, or China Carbon Emission Trade Exchange, opened on July 16, 2021.

Carbon trading is the buying and selling of quotas that permit a company or other entity to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.

Industry insiders in Shanxi said that listing local power companies, which are usually the major polluters, in national carbon trading marks a crucial step in carbon peaking and neutrality. This is because power producers subject to the quotas are motivated to reduce their emissions to lower their costs.

In Shanxi, efforts to realize carbon peaking and neutrality are not limited to the power-generation industry. Energy-consuming industries like steelmaking were among the first to respond to the initiative.

Taiyuan Iron and Steel Group, based in the provincial capital, is the largest and most advanced steelmaker in Shanxi.

Its board chairman Gao Xiangming said the company has always endeavored to reduce emissions over the years.

"In 2019 we realized super-low emissions in all production processes and we were among the first steelmakers to be granted an A-class national certificate for super-low emissions in 2020," Gao said. "And our total emissions volume in 2021 represented a 73.5 percent decrease from the figure in 2018, before a massive upgrade was launched."

Gao said the company's use of clean energy resources, like solar power and hydrogen, has greatly contributed to the reduction in emissions.

He said its energy consumption was reduced by using cutting-edge technologies that created both high-quality products and environmental benefits.

The company is one of the few steelmakers in the world capable of producing broadsheet super-thin stainless steel foil with a thickness of less than 0.02 millimeters, according to Gao. He added that it is produced for specific industries including aerospace, electronics, petrochemicals and automobiles.

In Shanxi, initiatives responding to carbon peaking and neutrality include developing clean energy resources to replace coal, planting more trees and grasses, cleaning up rivers and reducing air pollution.

On March 14, Shanxi released its list of key environmental projects for 2022. Those relating to the energy revolution, resource conservation and ecological restoration topped the list.

After efforts to develop solar and wind power, the province is turning its attention to the development of hydrogen-a fuel with zero emissions. It includes hydrogen produced from coking gas and the production of hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles.

Hydrogen industry clusters have been created in the cities of Taiyuan, Datong, Changzhi and Jinzhong. The annual hydrogen production capacity of the province has reached 3 million metric tons, according to the Shanxi Energy Administration.

Shanxi saw the addition of 346,000 hectares of forests in 2021 as a result of 143 greening projects across 11 cities, according to the Shanxi Forestry and Grassland Administration.

The administration said Shanxi's forestry sector will become an important part of the national carbon-trading market. It has established a special team to help integrate the local forestry industry into the market.

Shanxi has also established a number of institutions and organizations for research and services related to carbon peaking and neutrality. These include the Shanxi Carbon Neutrality Strategy Research Institution, an assessment center for greenhouse gas emissions, and the Shanxi service center for carbon trading.

A carbon neutrality industrial alliance was established on Nov 11, 2021. It aims to foster cooperation between research institutions and industrial players by commercializing research results, training professionals, offering consultation and other technical services.

Han Linfang contributed to this story.