A new study indicates that wind and solar power are experiencing significant growth in China, potentially leading to a faster reduction in global carbon emissions than previously anticipated.
China’s solar panel installations alone are expanding at a pace that could increase global capacity by 85% by 2025. The country’s green energy targets for 2030 are likely to be surpassed five years ahead of schedule, according to the report.
Despite this progress, the use of coal in China is also on the rise, partly due to its role as a backup for the new wind and solar farms. Coal is the primary source of electricity generation in China and is responsible for approximately 69% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions.
The study was conducted by Global Energy Monitor (GEM), an independent research group whose work is widely recognized by organizations such as the World Bank and the International Energy Agency. It examines China’s current installed capacity for green energy and projects future developments over the next two years.
Currently, China has more solar panels installed in large-scale projects than the rest of the world combined. Its wind energy capacity has doubled since 2017, and the country is rapidly expanding this sector, with plans to more than double its wind and solar capacity by the end of 2025.
China’s remarkable progress in renewable energy is the result of long-term plans dating back over two decades. The country has become the leading global supplier of solar panels, driving down costs and making solar and wind installations economically competitive. Government subsidies and regulations requiring provinces to meet green energy targets have also played crucial roles in this growth.
In 2020, President Xi Jinping pledged that China would install over 1,200 gigawatts of solar and wind power by 2030. The new study suggests that this target will be achieved five years ahead of schedule.
“We believe that the surge in building renewables certainly provides a basis for peaking [China’s] carbon emissions earlier than 2030,” said Martin Weil, one of the report’s authors.
While China’s efforts in renewable energy are promising for combatting global warming, the country’s continued reliance on coal remains a significant challenge. In 2022, China built an average of two new coal-fired power stations every week, with some of them located in close proximity to 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 said.
“One hopes that they’re deployed in a way that that puts the ratio of renewables to coal as high as possible.”
The development of battery storage and the growth of hydrogen will be crucial in helping China transition away from coal successfully. These technologies will play essential roles in enhancing renewable energy storage and usage, supporting China’s efforts to reduce its dependence on coal and achieve its green energy goals.
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