China – Leads the Way in Investing in and Deploying Renewable Energy
According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), China was a leading actor in investing, adding new capacity and having the highest amount of renewable energy capacity in 2016.
In their latest report, ‘Renewables Global Status Report’, REN21 found that China was the country that invested the most in renewable power and fuels (not including hydro > 50 MW) in 2016, as well as being the country that added the highest amount of new net capacity for hydropower, solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar water heating.
A World Leader in the Deployment of Renewable Energy
The report found that by the end of 2016, China had the overall highest capacity of renewable power (both including and excluding hydro power in the calculations) in the world. According to REN21, China leads both in terms of having the highest amount of hydro power capacity and generation, the highest solar PV capacity and wind power capacity. In particularly within the deployment of solar PV, China was a frontier in 2016, accounting for 46% of all the new capacity added within that year. Over 34 GW of new capacity was added to China’s energy mix, which is 126% more than what it added in 2015, making China’s total solar PV capacity amount to over 77 GW by the end of 2016.
China was also a leading actor in having the highest amount of solar water heating collector capacity and geothermal heat capacity. For instance, the report highlights how solar water heating collector systems have been increasingly used in China as a means of providing heat for public buildings. An example of this can be found in Hebei Province where Hebei University of Economics and Business use solar water heating collector systems to provide heat for the University’s student flats.
More Renewable Energy in China by the End of 2020
This increase in both investment and deployment of renewable energy can be viewed as a part of China’s ambitions of having at least 20% of its electricity generation sourced from non-fossil fuel by 2030. Moreover, according to the global news agency, Reuters (2017), China plans to invest over RMB 2.5 trillion in renewable energy by 2020.
Wind and Solar Power: the Potential to Replace Coal in the Future
In its recently released report, ‘Accelerating the Energy Transition: the co-benefits of wind and solar PV power in China’, Greenpeace East Asia and five industry associations and research groups, found that between 2013 and 2015, off-grid solar provided power to about half of all of people who lacked access to the national electricity grid in China.
The report also gives a number of projections in which wind and solar industries will continue to grow and increasingly help China to tackle its environmental issues in the future. For instance, the report projects that between 2015 and 2030, China’s wind and solar industries could expand by a fivefold, and will by 2030 be worth RMB 1.57 trillion, which is about 1.1% of the national GDP. Through this, Greenpeace East Asia claim that China’s wind and solar industries could by 2030 replace the usage of 300 million tons of standard coal per year, and that this could lead to about RMB 456 billion in external environmental benefits.
REN21, 2017: ‘Renewables 2017 Global Status Report‘ (Paris: REN21 Secretariat)
Ryan Woo, Reuters, 2017: ‘China’s solar power capacity more than doubles in 2016′