China’s Remarkable Progress in Green Energy Offers Hope in the Fight Against Climate Change
China is experiencing a remarkable surge in wind and solar power, which could contribute to a faster-than-expected reduction in global carbon emissions, according to a recent study by Global Energy Monitor (GEM). The installation of solar panels alone is growing at a rapid pace and is projected to increase global capacity by 85% by 2025.
The study indicates that China’s green energy targets for 2030 are likely to be exceeded five years ahead of schedule. However, the authors note that coal plants are also increasing, primarily serving as backup for the new wind and solar farms.
China, often seen as a crucial player in global efforts to combat climate change, is the world’s largest consumer of coal, mainly for electricity generation, accounting for approximately 69% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Despite this, the study highlights China’s rapid expansion of wind and solar power capacity, which could significantly mitigate the impacts of rising temperatures. The research was conducted by Global Energy Monitor (GEM), an independent research group whose work is widely referenced by organizations such as the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, and governments.
The report examines China’s current installed capacity for green energy and provides projections for announced projects and those under construction in the next two years. The findings reveal that China currently has more solar panels installed in large-scale projects than the rest of the world combined. Its wind energy capacity has doubled since 2017.
Moreover, the study suggests that China is just getting started. GEM predicts that China will rapidly expand its wind and solar sectors and more than double its capacity by the end of 2025. This expansion would increase the global wind turbine fleet by 50% and the world’s large-scale solar installations by 85% compared to current levels.
This surge in green energy is the result of long-term plans dating back over two decades. China has emerged as the leading supplier of solar panels worldwide, driving down costs throughout the supply chain and making solar and wind installations economically competitive within China. Subsidies and regulations mandating green energy targets for each province have played a significant role in this progress.
In 2020, President Xi Jinping announced China’s commitment to installing over 1,200 gigawatts of solar and wind power by 2030. The new report suggests that this target will be achieved five years ahead of schedule.
Martin Weil, one of the authors of the report, states, “We believe that the surge in building renewables certainly provides a basis for peaking [China’s] carbon emissions earlier than 2030.”
While this progress is encouraging for global efforts to limit global warming, China’s coal consumption remains a significant challenge. In 2022, China constructed approximately two new coal-fired power stations per week, often co-located with solar and wind parks to provide backup power and ensure a stable energy supply.
“The big issue going forward is how will these coal plants actually be deployed,” Mr. Weil highlights. He hopes that the deployment will prioritize a high ratio of renewables to coal.
The development of battery storage and the growth of hydrogen will also play crucial roles in China’s successful transition away from coal.
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