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China unveils renewable power generation plan

Pollution plagued China has announced plans to plough 2.5 trillion yuan (342 billion euros) into renewable power generation by 2020.

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China unveils renewable power generation plan

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Pollution plagued China has announced plans to plough 2.5 trillion yuan (342 billion euros) into renewable power generation by 2020.

Point of view

The government may exceed these targets because there are more investment opportunities in the sector as costs go down

Steven Han Renewable analyst, Shenyin Wanguo

China intends to use solar power, along with wind, hydro, nuclear power and geothermal energy.

Li Yangzhe, deputy head of Chinese Energy Agency said: “By 2020, the annual volume of commercial renewable energy sources available will reach the equivalent of 580 million tons of coal. Along with nuclear energy, we will reach our goal of increasing non-fossil fuels to 15 percent of total energy consumption.”

But even with this huge investment more than half of the nation’s installed power capacity will still be fueled by coal in 2020, with an annual increase in coal generation of about 2.5 percent. Around 10 percent of energy needs will come from natural gas.

Investing to shift away from dirty coal power towards cleaner fuels is intended to create over 13 million jobs in the sector.

Toxic smog

There are increasing concerns about the social and economic costs of China’s air pollution.

The announcement comes days after Beijing was shrouded in a thick blanket of toxic smog, leading to serious concerns about the immediate socio-economic impact of the superpower’s dependency on fossil fuels and coal in particular.

But just as China starts to turn its back on fossil fuels, the second largest green-house-gas emitter, the US, awaits outspoken climatosceptic, Donald Trump to take office.

President-elect Trump has called climate change a “hoax”, vowed to rip up the Paris deal, halt US taxpayer funding for UN global warming programmes – and revive the ailing American coal industry.

Cheaper solar

China already became the world’s top solar energy producer last year, and since 2010 construction costs for large solar plants have dropped by up to 40 percent.

Steven Han, renewable analyst with securities firm Shenyin Wanguo, said: “The government may exceed these targets because there are more investment opportunities in the sector as costs go down”.

Last month, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s economic planner, said that solar power will receive one trillion yuan of spending, as the country seeks to boost capacity by five times.

That is equivalent to about 1,000 major solar power plants, according to experts’ estimates.