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China set to surpass its climate targets as renewables soar

China set to surpass its climate targets as renewables soar

Wind and solar energy surged in China in 2015 to record levels, helping the country to pivot away from coal, which still provides two-thirds of its power

China is surging ahead in switching to renewables and away from coal in what its officials say will allow it to surpass its carbon emissions targets.

The country’s solar and wind energy capacity soared last year by 74 and 34 per cent respectively compared with 2014, according to figures issued by China’s National Bureau of Statistics yesterday.

Meanwhile, its consumption of coal – the dirtiest of the fossil fuels – dropped by 3.7 per cent, with imports down by a substantial 30 per cent.

The figures back up claims last month in Hong Kong by Xie Zhenhua, China’s lead negotiator at at the UN climate talks in Paris last December, that the country will “far surpass” its 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions per unit of national wealth (GDP) by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels.

Wind power record

Since China emits nearly a third of the world’s carbon dioxide, which is heating up the planet, this could make a major contribution to holding back temperature increases to the 2 °C degree maximum global target agreed by governments last December in Paris.

“The latest figures confirm China’s record-breaking shift toward renewable power and away from coal,” says Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, an energy consultancy in Cleveland, Ohio.

“China’s official 2015 wind installations are an all-time global record of 32.5 gigawatts,” says Buckley. “China itself is the only nation to have come anywhere near this, delivering 20.7 gigawatts of new wind capacity in 2014.”

Competing with fossil fuels

The latest figures state that “clean energy” – a combination of hydro, wind, solar, nuclear and natural gas – now accounts for 18 per cent of all its energy, up from 13 per cent in 2011.
“We’re now at the point where these technologies can compete head-to-head with gas and coal on price, meaning that this growth is only going to accelerate,” says Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, representing the UK’s wind and wave power producers. “The UK alone has increased the amount it generates from wind power from 1 to 11 per cent in a decade.”

“It’s a really positive signal, a perfect example of an emerging economy trying to shift the way it develops,” says Ranping Song of the World Resources Institute think tank in Washington DC.

Peak coal?

China is due to issue its next five-year economic plan this month. “So it’s a perfect time to see how serious they are about tackling emissions,” Song says.

Despite renewables gains, coal still provides almost two-thirds of China’s power consumption. But the dip in coal consumption over the past two years – which equals an entire year’s coal consumption in Japan – suggests that China may now have reached “peak coal”. “China’s market for coal consumption has started to become saturated, and should gradually decline,” Xie said in Hong Kong.

Read more: China’s climate comeback: How the top polluter is cleaning up

China installed a whopping 32.5 gigawatts of wind energy capacity last year Xu Yu/Xinhua Press/Corbis

China installed a whopping 32.5 gigawatts of wind energy capacity last year
Xu Yu/Xinhua Press/Corbis













Source: New Scientist

By Andy Coghlan

A shorter version of this article was published in New Scientist magazine on 5 March 2016


One Response to “China set to surpass its climate targets as renewables soar”

  1. Tom Pendergast says:

    The article below explains how China plans to get return on investment in renewables.

    One great source of renewable energy is southwest China (Yunan) where the Bhramaputra, the Mekong and the Salween all flow parallel to each other for about 100 miles. Their gorges are extremely steep and their flow rates are strong and reliable throughout the year. Building dams across these three rivers would at least double the output of the Three Gorges Project.
    The power transmission pylons, at least those on the crests of the mountains, will make ideal platforms for windmills. As for the northern part of China, the Great Wall already provides the ideal site for windmills; right on the crests of mountain ridges.
    It’s almost unbelievable how much progress the Chinese government has already achieved and is poised to lead in the future to be in the vanguard of providing clean energy for the people. Already China has built several hydroelectric project on tributaries of the Mekong in Laos and the Salween in Myanmar which send most of the power produced to Yunan province. As the article points out, China intends to accelerate this construction, especially in the southwest.

    Power Capacity by 21% in 2016
    Bloomberg News
    December 29, 2015 — 10:12 PM EST Updated on December 30, 2015

    China to add more than 20 gigawatts of wind power in 2016
    China eyes at least 15 gigawatts of solar power additions

    China, the world’s biggest clean energy investor, plans to increase wind and solar power capacity by more than 21 percent next year as it works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting its reliance on coal.

    The nation is targeting at least 20 gigawatts of new wind power installations and 15 gigawatts of additional photovoltaic capacity next year, the National Energy Administration said in a statement on Tuesday.

    China has pledged to peak carbon emissions around 2030, by which time it aims to derive 20 percent of the energy it uses from clean sources. China will also stop approving new coal mines in the next three years, the Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday, citing National Energy Administration head Nur Bekri.

    The world’s biggest producer of carbon emissions is expected at the end of this year to have a total of 120 gigawatts of wind power, 43 gigawatts of solar, and 320 gigawatts of hydro power, the NEA said.

    To accommodate the clean energy additions, China will promote the construction of electricity networks, the agency said.
    China will also accelerate hydro power construction in the southwest, the NEA said.

    To subsidize renewable-energy projects, the nation plans to raise a surcharge slapped onto electricity bills by about 27 percent to 0.019 yuan a kilowatt-hour, China’s top-economy agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, said on Wednesday.
    The move, which will come into effect on Jan. 1, could help ease the mismatch between the surcharges and what the government pays out to renewable power developers. At the moment, the gap is threatening the nation’s plans to use more clean energy as part of efforts to combat climate change.

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