China’s Solar Energy Plans Become Even More Ambitious

The People’s Republic of China has increased its target for installed solar power by 50%. It now aims to have 15GW of installed solar generating capacity, by 2015, Reuters reports.

The move comes just months after China doubled its solar goal from 5 GW to 10 GW earlier this year, following the partial meltdown of the Fukishama nuclear plant in Japan.

How can China be so ambitious? It’s thought that the revised target has been made possible by an uptick in solar installations thanks to new government supports for the industry. China’s government introduced its first unified national feed-in tariff for solar energy in August, guaranteeing a price significantly higher for solar power than was previously being paid by various state agencies. Note that feed-in tariffs are believed to have driven three-quarters of global photovoltaic solar power installations.

To give you a sense of the scale of what China’s trying to achieve, consider this: at the end of 2010, the country had less than 1 GW of installed solar capacity. A government think-tank reported in August that it expected there to be 2 GW of installed solar capacity by the end of 2011.



The revised plan does not change the existing, equally ambitious target for wind power, of 100 GW of installed capacity. Add on hydropower and biofuels, and China plans to install over 500GW of renewable energy by 2020.

Of course, we shouldn’t think that these exciting plans mean China has its carbon emissions under control. The country has built an average of one new coal-fired power station every single week for the law few years to meet its rapidly growing energy needs. Getting China, as well as India, to agree to discuss signing up to a possible future Kyoto-style agreement on emissions reductions was the number one achievement at the Durban UN climate conference last week. It’s likely that China would struggle to maintain its current breakneck pace of energy growth under any legally-binding emissions reduction regime unless it was able to perfect and retro-fit its coal plants with carbon-capture and storage technology.

For more recent news on China’s renewable plans, see China: Yet Another Strong Renewable Energy Push.


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