China’s energy turns an ever deeper shade of green

China’s power generation is turning green more quickly than other comparable systems on earth. According to the China Electrical Council, power generation from fossil fuels in 2014 dropped by 0.7%  year on year. On the other hand, power generation from non-fossil fuel sources increased 19%. Solar power generation increased by 175%, and water, wind and solar electricity increased 20%. Solar generation exceeded nuclear, providing an extra 17,430 Gigawatt hours last year compared to 14,700 Gigawatt hours, and 2014 was the third consecutive year in which wind generation exceeded nuclear.


In terms of generation capacity, China is now the world’s largest system, capable of producing 1,360 Gigawatts. The United States’ capacity is 1,000 Gigawatts. Of the 1,360 Gigawatt capacity, 444 Gigawatts was sourced from non-fossil fuel sources. Wind, water and solar plants added 51 Gigawatts of capacity and account for 31% of China’s total generation capacity, up from 21% in 2007. This result exceeded the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP) goal of 30% of the generating capacity to be non-fossil fuel based by 2015. The 12th FYP which was adopted by the Chinese Government in March 2011 had a very strong emphasis on new energy and climate programs and showed China’s commitment to bolstering environmental protection. The Plan provided a framework for progress going forward and strategic roadmap to be pursued over the next 5 years.


China’s recent performance with respect to investment in energy production facilities is also impressive, with investment in fossil fuel based facilities declining from 167 billion yuan in 2008 to 95 billion yuan in 2014 and investment in non-fossil fuel based facilities more than doubling from 118 billion yuan in 2008 to 252 billion yuan in 2014.

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China’s efforts in the renewable energy space as discussed here and in previous blogs should be given due credit. Admittedly coal still plays an important part in China’s electricity generation, however the distinct move from coal as the sole basis of the system and the concomitant shift in investment behaviour should be acknowledged for the achievement that it is. As a result of their efforts, China now has some impressive non-fossil based power generation figures, and as recent developments illustrate, is not afraid to question other countries on their actions and commitments in terms of renewable energy and ultimately climate change. As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris draws nearer, achievements such as these from China serve to enliven the conversation and demonstrate what well considered and deliberate actions over a number of years can achieve.


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