China’s Renewable Energy Future

7 Mar

As China establishes itself as one of the world’s largest economies, it is also forced to accept and take responsibility for its contribution to the increasing pollution of the earth’s atmosphere via green house gas emissions. In 2007, China became the world’s largest carbon emitter and the biggest consumer since 2009. This can be explained by the continuing rapid industrialisation that the country is experiencing. Despite the dramatic levels of development and economic growth over the last few decades, China believes it still has a long way to go to ensure its population is guaranteed an acceptable standard of living. China’s land mass is vast and although the population is mainly concentrated in the urban south and east areas, there is still a high proportion of people in rural locations living in poverty. Therefore, it is unlikely that the Chinese national government would consider reducing levels of industrialisation. Consequently, it has become necessary to search for alternative options to power the country’s economy, manufacturing and development aims (Zhang et al, 2013).

The development of important national policies began in 2005, which highlighted the current and future plans for renewable energy. Two separate policies were made. The first simply outlines the steps which are being taken to further initiate the production and use of renewable sources of energy. This includes; ensuring that all renewable energy is connected to the national grid and accessible by the public. Additionally, the correct equipment must be made available for generating power. The legislation also identifies the need for government subsidies and financial incentives to encourage the take up of alternative energy and to make this option economically viable (Schuman and Lin, 2010).

The second is focused on renewable energy and industrial policy. This paper is aimed at the manufacturing element of renewable energy technology and alternative power market. The report has announced government funding for the production of the technology which allows the harnessing of non-fossil based energy. This is invested, mostly, in solar and wind power mechanics. Capital is put into creating innovative equipment which competes at the international level. The policy enables this by offering tax reductions for foreign exports of equipment relating to renewable energy manufacturing and loans for Chinese firms involved in this industry. The overall aim of this policy is to ensure China’s continued leadership in this market sector rather than promoting the industrial use of renewable resources (Schuman and Lin, 2010).. 

Despite some global officials suggesting that China should focus more on the use of renewable energy over their market share of the industry, it has also been pointed out that the two policies are linked. Without the development of the renewable energy technology, it would not be possible to produce and utilise renewable resources themselves (Zhang et al, 2013)

According to Lo (2013) China’s pursuit of a sustainable energy future is due to five main principles. Firstly, China’s industrialisation relies heavily on the use of fossil fuels. As coal, oil and natural gas supplies dwindle across the globe, there is increasing need to find a more sustainable source of power to guarantee energy security. The threat of climate change is the second motivator for renewable energy development and consumption. This is a global challenge, hence China are under further pressure from other states and international governing bodies to reign in their carbon emissions and work alongside these players. Thirdly, China considers itself to be in a great position to dominate the renewable energy manufacturing industry.  To achieve this, the Chinese national government have to continue to fund research and development programs, which aim to create new technologies and overcome the current issues facing the application of renewable energy. Pollution and the effects this has on health, water and food security is the fourth major talking point, alongside environmental dilapidation. Renewable energy use would dramatically reduce the release of harmful substances into the surrounding air, land and waterways, which in turn would improve living conditions and health of China’s people.  Finally, the belief that renewable energy availability will allow more of the population access to energy will help to reduce the inequality gap between rural and urban communities.

Due to the increasingly urgent need for renewable energy and the policies which help to enable this, China has become a world leader in wind and solar power. China accounts for 26.7% market share for wind power and plays a huge part in the collecting of solar power energy (Zhang et al, 2013).

An example of this is Guangdong Province, where a large scale wind farm has been developed. This project is just one of many across China which have been designed to provide renewable energy and decrease China’s dependency on polluting fossil fuels. Guangdong is a very industrialised state and has benefitted greatly from this clean form of power. Guan (2006) suggests that wind power has the ability to decrease Guangdong’s carbon emissions by 29 million tonnes. However, as figure 1 shows; China’s power is still mainly sourced from non-renewable resources. Although, the proportion of renewable energy is increasing annually (Zhang et al, 2013).

 

 

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Figure 1: China’s Power generation. Source: NEA and NREC (2012) (Zhang et al, 2013)

For the future, China has goals which need to be achieved in order to combat climate change, ensure energy security, reduce pollution and tackle inequality of access to energy. National policies need to be improved to focus more on the supply and consumption of renewable energy and less emphasis on China’s market share in this industry. They must continue with large developments such as wind farms. Government subsidies and financial incentives should remain available to encourage the use of renewable energy over the cheaper fossil fuels. If China continues to prioritise the use of renewable energy then it is possible the country will reach its target of decreasing carbon emissions up to 45% by 2020. (Schuman and Lin, 2010) (Energy Foundation China, 1999).

 

 

Guan, J.J. (2006) Wind Power in China. Available [Online] at: http://www.ceibs.edu/bmt/images/20081103/13533.pdf  [Accessed on: 06/03/14]

Schuman, S. and Lin, A. (2010) China’s Renewable Energy Law and its impact on renewable power in China: Progress, challenges and recommendations for improving implementation. China: Elsevier. 

 

Energy Foundation China (1999) Renewable Energy. Available [Online] at: www.efchina.org [Accessed on: 05/03/14]

 

Lo, K. (2013) A critical review of China’s rapidly developing renewable energy and energy efficiency policies. AUS: Elsevier.

 

Zhang, S., Andrews-Speed, P., Zhao, X. and He, Y. (2013) Interactions between renewable energy policy and renewable energy industrial policy: A critical analysis of China’s policy approach to renewable energies. Energy Policy. 62. Pp 342-353.

 

 

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