December 29, 2016 / 11:46 AM / 3 years ago

China fines 605 power plants 328 million yuan for environmental breaches

A coal fired power plant is pictured near a construction site in Beijing, China, December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - Companies running 605 Chinese coal-fired power plants have been fined a total of 328 million yuan ($47 million) by the country’s economic planning agency for breaching environmental rules and falsifying data to claim green subsidies.

Excessive levels of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and dust were released by the power plants in question, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said on Wednesday.

A subsidiary of China’s power giant Shenhua Group [SHGRP.UL] was fined 52.14 million yuan and a plant controlled by China Guodian Corporation had to pay 7.73 million yuan, the NDRC said in a statement.

While the NDRC has fined power producers before for breaching environmental rules it has not previously published the size of the penalties.

In 2014, China, the world’s biggest consumer of coal, raised the price it pays for electricity from plants that have installed expensive equipment to cut the emission of pollutants in a bid to improve China’s air quality.

For example, the price of electricity from plants that remove sulfur from their emissions is 0.015 yuan higher than the normal price per kilowatt-hour (KWh) for electricity.

According to NDRC data, 99 percent of coal-fired plants had equipment to remove sulfur in 2015, up from 83 percent in 2010, while 92 percent of them had facilities to prevent nitrogen oxide being emitted, up from 12 percent five years earlier.

The state planner, together with Ministry of Environmental Protection, inspected 759 plants in the second half of 2016.

The two ministries plan to continue inspections of coal-fired power plants to make sure they abide by environmental protection policies.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Beijing newsroom; editing by David Clarke

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