China

Renewables in the fight against smog

Andrzej Ancygier, 18 May 15
China’s Renewable Energy Law was passed by the National People’s Congress ten years ago. Despite record-breaking growth in the country’s wind and solar sectors, carbon emissions continue to rise. Nuclear, however, has already been overtaken by renewables.

The Chinese government doesn’t really have a choice. Meteoric economic growth has brought with it soaring demand for energy: since 2006, electricity consumption has more than doubled, reaching a level eight times that of Germany. Energy dependence has also increased as a result. As late as the mid ‘90s, China was a net exporter of coal.

No longer: with new coal-fired power plants going online at a rate of almost one a week, fuelled mainly with imported coal, by 2013 China was spending over USD 270 billion on the stuff – almost three percent of its GDP. In that year, China consumed over half of all the coal mined worldwide, a staggering four
billion tonnes.

An even higher price for China’s coal frenzy is exacted on the health of its population. According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution was responsible for at least 1.2 million premature deaths and millions of cases of illness in China in 2010, especially in major cities in the east of the country.

This is an abridged version of the article – the full text is available in new energy issue 03/2015

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