A solar power installation in Hong Kong

China to boost renewables with $360bn investment

Image credit: WiNG

China will invest some 2.5 trillion yuan ($361bn) in renewable energy generation by 2020, likely exceeding its earlier spending target.

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced the investment in a five-year plan that anticipates expenditure of $72bn per annum as well as the creation of more than 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector.

According to NEA, emission-free energy including solar, wind, hydro and nuclear power will make up 50 per cent of China’s electricity generation by 2020. The rest will still be covered by coal. Of the country's total energy consumption, renewables will account for 15 per cent by 2020 with coal remaining by far the number one energy source.

China, one of the world’s worst polluters, is working hard to wean itself off  fossil fuels. The country’s rapid economic development triggered a massive growth in energy demand that has so far been mostly covered with coal. As a result, the country has been struggling with worsening air quality. This winter, cities in China’s north, including capital Beijing, have seen several week-long spells of dangerous smog.

Last month, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's economic planner, said in its own five-year plan that solar power will receive 1 trillion yuan of spending, as the country seeks to boost capacity by five times. That's equivalent to about 1,000 major solar power plants, according to experts' estimates.

The spending comes as the cost of building large-scale solar plants has dropped by as much as 40 per cent since 2010. China became the world's top solar generator last year.

Some 700 billion yuan will go towards wind farms, 500 billion to hydro power with tidal and geothermal getting the rest, the NDRC said.

The NEA's job creation forecast differs from the NDRC's in December that said it expected an additional 3 million jobs, bringing the total in the sector to 13 million by 2020. 

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