Dr. Ryna Yiyun Cui（崔宜筠） is an Assistant Research Scholar at the Center for Global Sustainability (CGS), University of Maryland. Dr. Cui is an expert in global coal transition and climate and energy policies in China. She leads the Global Coal Analysis and Policy for Decarbonization Project at CGS. As the China research lead, Dr. Cui also manages the development and implementation of CGS’s China program portfolio. Her research focuses on climate change mitigation, sustainable energy transition, and global and national integrated assessment modeling of China, India and the United States. Before joining CGS, Dr. Cui worked at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaboration between the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland. Her prior research has focused on long-term food security under climate change mitigation, international agriculture trade and food demand, integrated assessment of energy-food-water nexus, and international carbon markets. She holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Policy from University of Maryland, a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the College of William and Mary, and a Bachelor’s degree in Management Science and Engineering from Renmin University in Beijing.
A successful energy transition in China would contribute fundamentally and significantly to China’s own development priorities and is also consistent with the long-term Paris climate goals. To support the global 1.5°C and 2°C goals, achieving deep decarbonization in power generation and moving away from conventional coal within the next 30 years or earlier will be an unprecedented challenge for China. This research details how such a high-ambition coal power phaseout in China can be achieved feasibly, balancing multiple important needs. The analysis combines bottom-up plant-level data and top-down long-term deep decarbonization scenarios from integrated assessment models (IAM) – GCAM-China and IPAC. It evaluates more than 1,000 existing Chinese coal-fired power plants (including nearly 3,000 individual units), through a five-dimensional framework of technical attributes, profitability, environmental impacts, grid stability, and equity. Coal plants retirement pathways were designed based on global 1.5°C and 2°C scenarios, retirement priority of individual plants, and specific policy designs for an appropriately paced, sustainable coal phaseout strategy in China. Results shows that it is feasible to achieve a 2°C and a 1.5°C compatible coal power phaseout in China by 2050 or earlier with relatively small economic impact. To do this, a three-principle strategy needs to be followed: no new coal plant construction, rapid shutdown of older and inefficient plants, and a shift of coal generation from baseload to peak load in China’s power system.