China and renewable energy

by Antonio Pasolini on January 30, 2008

china renewable  energyA report co-written by a Worldwatch Institute senior fellow says that “China will likely achieve—and may even exceed—its target to obtain 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020″. If China’s commitment to diversifying its energy supply and becoming a global leader in renewables manufacturing persists, renewable energy could provide over 30 percent of the nation’s energy by 2050.

That is the major conclusion of Powering China’s Development: The Role of Renewable Energy, written by Beijing-based researcher Eric Martinot and Li Junfeng, Vice Chair of China’s Renewable Energy Society in Beijing. “A combination of policy leadership and entrepreneurial savvy is leading to spectacular growth in renewable energy, increasing its share of the market for electricity, heating, and transport fuels,” said Martinot. “China is poised to become a leader in renewables manufacturing, which will have global implications for the future of the technology.”

Wind and solar energy are expanding particularly rapidly in China, with production of wind turbines and solar cells both doubling in 2006. China is poised to pass world solar and wind manufacturing leaders in Europe, Japan, and North America in the next three years, and it already dominates the markets for solar hot water and small hydropower.

The findings in this report, if really accurate, should literally represent a breath of fresh air for Chinese people. Coal currently provides 80 percent of China’s electricity, and national electricity demand doubled between 2000 and 2006. The consequence is that only one percent of urban Chinese breathe air that meets European air quality standards. Coal generation also leads to the build up of toxic metals, such as mercury, in water supplies and on agricultural fields throughout China.

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