Xi Jinping/new leaders re coal, solar, wind, environmental protection
China is widely known for its heavy reliance on coal, but the country is facing new constraints with regard to this energy source on climate and energy policy under China’s incoming president, Xi Jinping, and other new leaders. Key issues include whether the country can sustain its renewable energy growth, confront rising coal demand, and follow through on its climate change targets in the 12th five-year plan.
China’s new leaders will first focus on domestic challenges, primarily around re-balancing the economy. The real results in terms of carbon emissions are likely to hinge to a substantial extent … on the degree of success in this sectoral rebalancing of the economy. Climate change – which poses a global challenge – could be a potential “positive bridge” between the U.S. and China.
China’s 12th Five-Year Plan focuses on clean energy and the push to a more innovation-driven economy has been moving to balance its energy mix by increasing investment in renewable energy, such as solar and wind. China invested more than $54.4 billion in clean energy in 2010 –more than any other country. Its goal is to increase the share of non-fossil fuel-based energy use to 11.4 percent in 2015.
China’s target in the 12th five-year plan is to expand its wind and solar energy capacities to more than 100 gigawatts and 20 gigawatts respectively by 2015. Longer-term plans set goals of more than 200 gigawatts of wind and 50 gigawatts of solar by 2020. Wind and solar still represent a small share of China’s total electricity generation, but generation exceeds that of many other countries. China has the largest market in the world in this area, but it’s facing significant challenges right now integrating wind into its power system.
China is widely known for its heavy reliance on coal; however, less discussed is the fact that the country is facing new constraints with regard to this energy source. In particular, China’s government is confronted with increasing local pressures due to environmental and health issues around coal use. Furthermore, economic conditions are also working against China’s massive coal industry. For example, due to rising coal prices and fixed electricity prices, coal plants have been losing money, causing investment in coal to falter and the construction of many new coal-fired power plants to be delayed, in fact, there has been a significant decline in the number of new coal plants being built.
Taking Climate Change Seriously, China’s economic restructuring can be compatible with environmental protection, including around action to address climate change. China’s efforts to control emissions will be good for climate change, the planet, and other environmental issues that they have to grapple with.
The main drivers behind China’s energy and climate actions include the country’s desire to: restructure its economy; increase innovation and development of new technologies; move toward greater environmental protections; and meet its targets in the 12th five-year plan.
There is strong agreement among Chinese officials that part of development is being both cleaner and more technologically sophisticated and having a more diverse economy. Together, these underlying factors may indeed push China toward a lower-carbon energy future. These changes are unlikely to occur quickly, but we’ll all be watching closely to see if China’s new leadership is able to manage a transition to clean energy while ensuring the country stays on a solid growth pathway.