climate crisis Mitchell Beer

China’s New Green Energy Plan Could Supercharge the Global Fight Against Climate Change

The country's latest renewables plan could bridge the global 1.5°C gap, an expert says.
[Brian Jeffery Beggerly / Wikimedia Commons]

By Mitchell Beer | The Energy Mix

China’s fourteenth five-year plan (14FYP) shows the country could build enough wind and solar capacity to reach its emissions peak ahead of schedule, but continuing coal investments raise doubts.

“To the extent that the new 14FYP for renewables can meet or overperform on its goals, it would also contribute to China’s effort to peak carbon emissions early and help bridge the global emission reduction gap towards a 1.5°C pathway,” writes Hu Min, principal and co-founder of the Innovative Green Development Program (iGDP), a public policy consultancy that specializes in sub-national climate action.

Released earlier this year, the 14FYP maintains China’s pledge to produce 25% of its energy from non-fossil sources by 2030. Although the new plan deviates from its predecessor in some significant ways—including doing away with mandatory generation capacity increase targets—the new plan raises the ambition of China’s renewable energy transition, Min writes.

She points out that the 14FYP requires “newly increased renewable generation make up more than 50% of the incremental electricity consumption,” meaning that “at least half of the increase in demand be covered by renewables.”

The Green Development Program projects that the new plan will require China to scale up renewable power by 150 terawatt hours per year. (A terawatt hour or TWh equals a billion kilowatt hours, and is used to measure the energy consumption of whole countries.) In comparison, China raised capacity by 100 TWh per year during the previous FYP and recorded a 255-TWh increase in 2021. In each of its three most recent FYPs, China exceeded the targets it had set for renewable energy capacity.

The new FYP also raises the bar for China’s wind and solar capacity, which it will now need to ramp up by at least 100 gigawatts a year. That’s more than the 75 gigawatts per year needed for the NDC, “meaning that the renewable plan is likely to overperform,” Min says.

China’s renewable energy sector is already seeing rapid growth. Hundreds of local authorities across the country have partnered with solar developers to fulfill a national plan to cover 50% of all new public buildings and factories with solar panels by 2025, which complements another plan to install solar on existing buildings, reports Climate Home News.

The plans drove a year-on-year solar capacity increase of 140% in the first five months of 2022, prompting Lauri Myllyvirta of the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air to hail the “blistering growth of China’s solar power installations” and describe the policy as “ambitious and smart.”

But China’s continued use of coal raises doubts about the country’s emissions reductions measures. Recent disruptions to the world’s energy markets—caused by events like the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—have caused the country to backslide on its coal phaseout efforts as its focus shifts to immediate energy security. Although China says it aims to start cutting coal consumption in 2026, it also started building 33 gigawatts of new coal-fired power generation capacity last year, more than in any other year since 2016, reports the Globe and Mail.

China is taking some measures to ensure that its climate progress leads to results, such as restrictions on issuing permits for new coal power plants unless the projects are supplementary to renewables. But “there is still a risk that China’s growing coal capacity could run counter to the country’s efforts to decarbonize its energy mix,” Min says.

5 comments

  1. Please, PLEASE search youtube for “Planet of the Humans.” Go to 52mins and about 25seconds. We are cutting down forests so we can burn wood to create electricity. They are calling it “biomass.” So-called environmental groups are calling this “carbon-neutral!” This is TERRIBLE and inexcusable from an environmental POV. After you’ve watched this, I invite you to read “Bright Green Lies,” or get the Audible version so you can listen to it while doing chores. I was horrified as I read about the industrial processes required for Solar and Wind, not to mention “Pumped Hydro.” I had long wondered about the mining of lithium, rare earth minerals, steel, copper, and aluminum. Even recycling is FAR more damaging than I had previously understood. The Environmental Movement has been co-opted and industrialized by WallST. Hank Paulson, as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Nature Conservancy? Something went horribly wrong. However, it is far more dangerous than I had previously imagined (actually, my worst fears are now being confirmed). I have a technical and mechanical background. The blowback against this documentary is unfounded. Now that I’ve seen the documentary and read the book, I’ve had a huge epiphany. Now I “get it.” As a former whistleblower, I fully understand what retribution and smear tactics are. Ignore the greenwash. Look further into this. It will blow you away. Conservatives do not believe in planetary heating accelerated by man’s use of fossil fuels. Progressives believe that industrialized so-called “green energy” will save us. Our problems are far, far worse than most have ever dared to think. Please do some homework and do not look away.

    1. Mr. Smythe, i am one of the few who saw the film, then one of the fewer still who believed it rather than the angry attacks against it. What you say here about sums up how it looks to me too. i really emotionally needed solar, hydro, wind, biomass, the 3 Rs, all that to work out. Since reaching the level of conclusions though, i’ve not found since the way. The corps(e) are atill moving forward with blue hydrogen (as opposed to green) & nuclear. i even have advanced hard acience degree career parents all jazzed about the carbon capture crap the system advertises. Even Dahr Jamail seemingly has left the scene & gone dark. Noone discusses how to trigger cooling feedback loops. No plans to get rid of u.s. military- the single greatest polluter if all combustion engines stopped in 5min. we’re still goners b/c of them alone if nothing else. All i’m aware of is dead end. If a genius invented the perpetual motion machine, a.k.a. free unlimited energy then he’d be assassinated before you finish reading me here. Humanity needs a way forward, we need answers. i hope your book recommendation has solutions. Even Rona started working for the man, turning into an agent for the reactionary regressive rw robot zombie hordes. We can’t even hit the bourgeoisie in their pocketbooks, they’ll just bailout centi-trillions more digital zeroes to evil imperial bank accounts. Where is the loose thread to pull & unravel their Oz wizard magic show? They’re not impervious & eternal. There has to be a way.

  2. So China is meeting 1/2 of it’s annual increased power demands with renewables while ramping up it’s coal use.

    1.5° C is not even a remote possibility at this point, so much so that I doubt 2.5° C is even possible.

    We are living through the answer to Fermi’s paradox in real time. Can you say extinction?

  3. climate change hysteria is a reactionary ruling class concern as Marxists–Badiou, Meszaros, Sennet all perceive—their is no “fight” —only preparation…the ruling class libs reject preparation; they prefer fear porn

    1. Mainstream environmentalism is not the environmentalism of the first earth day five decades ago. Today it’s corporate ‘save the planet’ hype, the purpose of which is to convince the population (at least the “liberals”, “progressives” and the “WOKE”) that driving electric cars, recycling, green shopping and voting ‘blue no matter who’ will fix the problem. No life style changes needed; technology will save us and we can feel very good about ourselves as we fly off into our imagined Star Trek world or go shopping. Neo-Liberalism will have been saved!

      Highly recommended: “Planet of the Humans” and Bright Green Lies”.

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