As the United States Congress battles over the costs, benefits, and especially, definitions of its own national renewable energy standard, coal-giant China announced a plan to get 15 percent of its energy capacity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2020, the state-run China Daily reports.
Perhaps sent as a signal to the U.S. and the rest of the world that China is taking seriously the threat of climate change, the news of China's new renewable energy targets should also be taken with a grain of salt: the country is also expected to release a revised power supply capacity target that is as much as fifty percent greater than targets set in 2007.
According to reports, Chinese officials plan on releasing a revised power supply capacity target for 2020 -- a target that might increase to as much as 1,500 gigawatts.
To restructure its current electricity supply sources, China plans to increase investments in nuclear, solar, wind and biomass energy resources, China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) vice-chairman Zhang Xiaoqiang said.
But Zhang was also optimistic that despite the overall growth in capacity (growth that would largely come as a result of new coal-fired power plants), not only wouldChina easily meet its renewable energy target of 15% by 2020, he predicted that China’s renewable capacity could reach as high as 20% by that time.
"Personally, I think we could reach the target of having renewable sources make up 20 percent of total energy consumption," Zhang recently told reporters in London.
Untapped solar and wind resources
China's vast solar and wind resources are considered largely untapped. At the end of 2008, China's solar capacity was less than 100 megawatts, or 0.01 percent. The country's installed wind energy capacity was 12 GW at year's end.
To encourage growth in the renewable energy sector, Chinese officials are bolstering incentive programs. The country already has a subsidy in place of of roughly $3 per watt for solar panel based systems larger than 50 kW fixed on building roofs. These rebates cover roughly half the cost of such systems. Chinese officials also plan to enact a feed-in tariff of $0.16 per kWh produced to further incentivize uptake of rooftop solar.
The Energy Research Institute at NRDC projects solar power to increase ten-fold by 2020. This target expands the 1,800 megawatts of installed solar capacity set two years ago to 10,000 megawatts or more.
Chinese solar panel makers, including Suntech Power Holdings, Yingli Green Energy and LDK Solar, would likely benefit from the recent financial and policy drivers. China is the world's leading manufacturer of solar photovoltaic panels, but 95% of these are exported.
With an onshore wind power potential estimated at 700 GW to 1,200 GW and an offshore wind power capacity of 250 GW, Chinese officials say they also plan on building-out a fleet of large wind farms as part of their ambitious goal. The wind farms, large by any standard, are expected to generate 10, 20 and as much as 40 GW a piece.
The updated renewable energy target from the Chinese government comes on the heels of recent major Chinese investments in renewable energy, and after the Indian government revealed that it would provide $100 billion in subsidies over 20 years to utilities for buying solar-generated power.
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