China is on course with renewables

Jon Lawson

China has an ambitious plan for and has shown great dedication to energy transformation. Overall, China’s ‘green’ initiative is one that affects our entire globe, but it also is being seized as an opportunity to be a global leader. 

China currently holds a balance between being a major polluter and a major producer of clean energy. Some 1.1 million people continue to die in China from pollution-related causes, yet it is the world’s largest producer of solar energy, has installed significant wind capacity, and has made significant ‘green’ efforts. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, China is already the major producer and exporter of renewable energy technology, producing two thirds of the world’s solar panels and nearly half of its wind turbines. Its 2020 solar power 105GW target was met early in 2017, but only 1% of the country’s energy demand is met by solar power. 

The country is moving away from coal and towards renewable sources. However, there is a concern over coal-fired plants that are still being built and developed. China has been called upon to cancel the projects. According to Ted Nace, executive director of research group CoalSwarm, “This new evidence that China’s central government hasn’t been able to stop the runaway coal-fired power plant building is alarming – the planet can’t tolerate another US-sized block of plants to be built.” CoalSwarm has stated, “China’s coal policies have an outsize effect on global climate prospects.” 

China made an ambitious initial energy transition plan, pledging to produce 20% of its energy needs from non-fossil fuels in 2030. To do so, the country has pledged to invest $367 billion by 2020. Since then, the potential for the country’s efforts have resulted in an even greater push. A revised draft from the National Development & Reform Commission included details for a new plan, called the Renewable Portfolio Standard, stating a pledge to produce 35% of its energy needs from renewable sources in 2030. 

The country is pushing for even greater green efforts and both the environment and the economy will benefit. According to China’s National Energy Administration, the $367 billion investment plan alone will create 10 million new jobs. Although 1.3 million coal miners will see jobs shift, China employs 2.5 million people in the solar sector.

There are also long term plans and a great focus on hydroelectric power. According to the International Hydropower Association, China has increased its install capacity at greater than a quarter of the world’s total. Trade groups have addressed that there is even greater potential for capacity in future years, with even less environmental impact. 

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