Good news : the country is willing to get 30% of its electricity via renewables by 2050. Bad news : the growth of energy consumption last year was of 16.2 percent.
This wouldn’t be a problem if this 90 GW increase wasn’t fuelled for 85 percent by coal-fired plants, which are by far the most CO2 intensive and most polluting solution.
The energy demand in the People’s Republic doubled between 2000 and 2006 and there is no sign that this boom will slow down.
According to the Financial Times :
About 85 per cent of the new generating capacity of 90GW is coal-fired, highlighting the significant pressure on China at the talks in Bali this week over a global agreement to cut greenhouse emissions.
(…) Even with the surge in capacity, the newly generated power has easily been absorbed by a fast-growing economy still propelled by big investments in energy-intensive industries, such as steel, aluminium and cement.
(…) Like the Chinese economy, which is on track to record its fifth straight year of double-digit growth, the growth in power demand in China has continued to surprise.
(…) The rapid growth has produced a surge in new coal-fired plants, as they provide the only affordable energy that can be brought online quickly enough to meet rising demand.
China is investing billions of dollars in nuclear power and renewable energy such as wind power, but none can keep pace with the short-term demands of the economy.
In the 11 months to November, China closed 365 small coal power stations, according to the China Sustainable Energy Foundation, equal to 11GWs of generating capacity.
The country might exceed its targets of renewable energies use even if it is willing to have 30 percent of its electricity coming from these clean energy sources by 2050.
As the American NGO notes, several renewables see their market increase most rapidly, indeed :
Wind power is the fastest growing power-generation technology in China, with existing capacity doubling during 2006 alone. (…)
Solar PV production capacity in China jumped from 350 megawatts (MW) in 2005 to over 1,000 MW in 2006, with 1,500 MW expected in 2007. (…)
Growth in solar hot water systems has been rapid, rising from 35 million square meters of installed capacity in 2000 to 100 million square meters by the end of 2006. China added 20 million square meters of new capacity in 2006 alone.
As we see, there are some truly good and really bad news. The thing is, the bad news occur now and have to be tackled fast. Action toward energy efficiency can not wait.
The Chinese government did limit the births in the country, why couldn’t it do the same in the energy sector and limit the growing amount of coal-fired plants ?
I personally dream that some of all these coal-fired plants will be replaced by renewables or by nuclear ones, which emits up to 50 times less than coal.
On this matter, the Worldwatch Institute states that nuclear will see its production go from the current 7 GW to 36 GW.
Even with this increase, it is most unlikely to them that this energy source will represent more than five percent. (Nuclear currently accounts for less than 2 percent of total electricity generation of the People’s Republic).
To infer this long article on this energy market, China is willing to become the world champion of renewable energy sources, and it is giving itself the means to do so.
This is good news, but I can’t wait for an impressive plan on energy efficiency and behavioural changes that would seriously limit the increase of energy use in the country.