China Sets 15% Renewable Energy Target, Ups Ante on U.S.

solar panel

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.

china solar map

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.

Image © Foto.fritz

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If you see any unhelpful comments, please let us know immediately.

w/e (anonymous)

set a goal of 15% reduction of dirty coal usage and/or pollution reduction and I will /applaud

Written in July 2009

Anonymous (anonymous)

I have solar panel roofs, and after the initial cost to get them installed, I broke even about a month ago. It's worth it. Sometimes the energy dies on cloudy days, so we have to go through a whole day without electricity.

Happy to see SOME countries putting renewable resources into effect.

Written in July 2009

Jeff (anonymous)

OK, fine, 15% is their goal. Where are they now? How will this be verified/followed up?

Written in July 2009

Thomas (anonymous)

Solar Panels have come a very very long way in size, efficiency and cost in the last 5 years alone. I applaud China and say Fuck You to all you haters who can't think past America first. Let's get our own butts in action and start leading again in something besides preemptive wars.

Written in July 2009

You only have solar panels? No back up electricity?

Written in July 2009

Frank from Texas (anonymous)

China is spitting out a coal fired electric generation plant a week, at 1950's technology (horrible polluter for you hippies). It will take a much larger renewable imprint to make a difference. In China, they also can build dams whereever they want. They don't have any lizard lovers stopping progress.

Written in July 2009

Rif (anonymous)

"was a paltry 12 megawatts at year's end"

No, it was 12 gigawatts. China is the country with the fourth largest installation of wind turbines just behind Spain. See GWEC annual report 2008 for details.

Written in July 2009

Rif- Typo corrected, thanks for catching that.


Written in July 2009

Francisco (anonymous)

Spanish company touts process to turn urban waste into biodiesel

By Ron Kotrba

A group of Spanish developers working under the company name Ecofasa, headed by chief executive officer and inventor Francisco Angulo, has developed a biochemical process to turn urban solid waste into a fatty acid biodiesel feedstock. “It took more than 10 years working on the idea of producing biodiesel from domestic waste using a biological method,” Angulo told Biodiesel Magazine. “My first patent dates back to 2005. It was first published in 2007 in Soto de la Vega, Spain, thanks to the council and its representative Antonio Nevado.”

Using microbes to convert organic material into energy isn’t a new concept to the renewable energy industries, and the same can be said for the anaerobic digestion of organic waste by microbes, which turns waste into biogas consisting mostly of methane. However, using bacteria to convert urban waste to fatty acids, which can then be used as a feedstock for biodiesel production, is a new twist. The Spanish company calls this process and the resulting fuel Ecofa. “It is based on metabolism’s natural principle by means of which all living organisms, including bacteria, produce fatty acids,” Angula said. “[It] comes from the carbon of any organic waste.”

He defined urban waste as “organic wastes from home like food, paper, wood and dung,” and added that any carbon-based material can be used for biodiesel production under the Ecofa process. “For many years, I wondered why there are pools of oil in some mountains,” he said, explaining the reasoning behind his invention. “After delving into the issue, I realized that [those oil deposits] were produced by decomposing organic living microorganisms.” This, in Angulo’s mind, sparked the idea that food waste and bacteria could be turned into fatty acids that could react into biodiesel. Two types of bacteria are under further development by Biotit Scientific Biotechnology Laboratory in Seville, Spain: E. coli and Firmicutes. The Ecofa process also produces methane gas, and inconvertible solids that can be used as a soil amendment or fertilizer. “There is a huge variety of bacteria,” Angulo said. “Currently, [biodiesel producers] receive a fat that must be processed through transesterification into biodiesel, but we are also working on other types of bacteria that are capable of producing fatty acids with the same characteristics as biodiesel.” He said this would eventually allow producers to skip the transesterification step.

Ecofasa may avoid the ongoing food-versus-fuel debate and its expected successor, indirect land use, with its Ecofa process. “It would not be necessary to use specific fields of maize, wheat, barley, beets, etc., which would remain for human consumption without creating distortions or famines with unforeseeable consequences,” the company stated in a press release. “This microbial technique can be extended to other organic debris, plants or animals, such as those contained in urban sewage. You can even experiment with other carbon sources, and this opens up a lot of possibilities. It is only necessary to find the appropriate bacteria.”

The company created its name by combining the term “eco-combustible” with F.A., the initials of the inventor.

“Today we feel that we can produce between one and two liters [of biodiesel] per 10 kilograms of trash,” Angulo said. That’s a little more than one-fourth to one-half of a gallon for every 22 pounds of trash—or between 24 and 48 gallons per ton of urban waste. “We are working to improve that,” he said.

Written in July 2009

Uncle B (anonymous)

Given: Chinese eat primarily veggie diets, and use very little oil per capita - Solar energy to a Chinese peasant will be multiplied in value to his country, Americans waste the same playing video games now! Point is, the basic lifestyle of Chinese is greatly enhanced by even a little perpetual or renewable energy, the same amount given to Americans is a pittance towards what each individual feels "entitlement" to, as sold to him by the advertising propagandists! To gain satisfaction and feel a rewarding lifestyle the American must be provided with an astounding pile of resources, not so for the Chinese peasent, who will take very little and return a huge amount back to the system! The "Consumer Society" we have become accustomed to is unsustainable, and failing fast - we don't even manufacture our own cars anymore!. China, Jorea, Japan, on the other hand, do manufacture all their own cars, and then ours too! What is wrong with this equation? When America was resource rich, and beingdiscovered, we prospered, now virtually all has been mined, exploited, and we are left with the reminents, and a new society to build! The "American Dream" is over! A new paradigm is developing! It is an ugly one for America! G d help Us! We are sinking into the East, an Asian empire Adventure, The own us lock, stock and barrel, and now, will they employ us, or rape us as a mighty military mercenary force, in their service much as we have been for the Arab Princes, in Iraq? Where is the pride in this?

Written in August 2009

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