Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

Renewables will ‘dominate’ future Chinese power sector

Photo: Renato Ganoza via Flickr

Greenhouse gas emissions from China’s energy industry will peak in 2027, as renewable energy and gas take on a dominant role in the country’s energy mix, a new report has claimed.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) study estimates that China’s total power generation capacity will more than double by 2030, adding an additional 1,583 gigawatts (GW) to reach a total of 2,707GW. This growth is required to meet the projected growth in electricity consumption of 5% or 88GW per year – the equivalent to adding the total installed annual capacity of the UK. 

Renewables are expected to dominate the market, contributing to more than half of the new demand, accompanied by natural gas. This means that emissions from the sector will peak in 2027 as coal’s share of power generation falls from 67% in 2012 to 44% in 2030

However, the report also predicts that investment in new coal capacity will continue to grow rapidly until 2022 to meet the increasing energy demand, equivalent to adding three large coal plants a month. It warns that efforts to reduce rising greenhouse gas emissions and harmful levels of air pollution are likely to take between 10 to 15 years to prove successful.

A study published in July claimed that air pollution from fossil fuels in northern China reduces life expectancy by as much as five-and-a-half years.

It claims air pollution caused by burning coal is 55% higher in the north – where the government gives free coal to households – than in the south. It concludes that residents in the north will continue to have shorter lifespans.

According to a survey by the Canton Public Opinion research centre, in Guangzhou, China, most urban Chinese residents are concerned that the country’s economic expansion will come at the cost of the environment.

The survey of more than 3,000 residents found that 71% said they worry that the country’s growing economy will destroy the environment.

However, the Chinese state council has pledged to make energy efficiency a pillar of its economy.

Alvin Lin, Nation Resource Defence Council’s China climate change adviser, said, “China’s leaders are paying close attention to coal and have sought now seek to reduce coal consumption and pollution by introducing a suite of policy measures.”

These measures, according to Lin, include carbon trading, capping energy consumption, resource taxes, new emissions controls and regional coal consumption caps.

Further reading:

Death to the polluters

China could scrap one child policy to avoid ageing crisis

US and China set to discuss climate change goals

World’s largest CO2 emitter, China, to set climate targets by 2016

China: economic supremacy at any cost or global environmental leadership

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