A solar power installation in Hong Kong

Renewable energy targets prompt £630bn investment for Chinese wind and solar

Image credit: WiNG

5.4 trillion yuan (£630bn) could be poured into China’s wind and solar sectors between 2016 and 2030 as the country attempts to meet its renewable energy targets, according to a research report.

China has pledged to increase non-fossil fuel energy to at least 20 per cent of total consumption by the end of the next decade, up from 12 per cent in 2015, as part of its efforts to tackle air pollution and bring carbon dioxide emissions to a peak by around 2030.

To do that, China would need to raise wind and solar power’s share of primary energy consumption to 17 per cent by 2030, up from four per cent in 2015, according to the report published by environmental organisation Greenpeace and involving research by a government institute, a Chinese university and other groups.

Wind and solar power could reduce fossil fuel consumption by nearly 300 million tonnes of standard coal a year by the end of 2030, equivalent to France’s total primary energy consumption in 2015, the report said, assuming China met its targets.

In its 2016-2020 “five-year plan” for renewables, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) laid out a plan to raise total wind generation capacity from 129 gigawatts (GW) in 2015 to more than 210GW in 2020, with solar set to rise from 43.18GW to 110GW over the same period.

Total renewable capacity, including hydropower, would rise to 680 GW, 27 per cent of the national total and up from around 480 GW in 2015, the NDRC said.

The NDRC itself projected its plans would require a total investment of 2.5 trillion yuan on solar, wind and other renewables just over the 2016-2020 period.

However, the agency warned the country’s electricity distribution system was still not flexible enough to handle renewable power and there were still technological obstacles when it came to connecting wind and solar to the grid, leading to large amounts of waste.

According to figures released last month by China’s Electric Power Planning and Engineering Institute, 49.7 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind power failed to make it to the grid in 2016, up from 33.9 billion kWh in 2015 and amounting to 17 per cent of total wind power generation.

Greenpeace said it worked with the China Wind Energy Association, the NDRC’s Energy Research Institute, Tsinghua University and an environmental research group called Draworld, and then submitted the findings to independent experts.

After climate change sceptic Donald Trump was elected as US President last year, China is being touted as the next leader to fight global warming. 

In December it launched a satellite to monitor the flow and distribution of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in an attempt to better understand and reduce its carbon footprint. 

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