China to double wind, solar power capacity by 2025

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Beijing (AFP) – China aims to double its wind and solar capacity by 2025, according to a new roadmap that also calls for more coal-fired power plants to boost energy security.

The world’s biggest polluter earlier estimated that it needed to double the use of wind and solar power by 2030 to meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord.

The latest plan – if implemented – means China could achieve that goal sooner.

But Beijing has also increased its reliance on coal-fired power plants in recent months to support its struggling economy as war in Ukraine drives up global energy prices.

The country’s central economic planner said 33% of the national grid’s power supply would come from renewable sources by 2025, up from 29% in 2020, in a document released on Wednesday.

“By 2025, annual electricity generation from renewables will reach approximately 3.3 trillion kilowatt hours…and wind and solar generation will double,” the plan says.

China, already the world’s largest producer of renewable energy, has accelerated investment in solar and wind projects to tackle household pollution, which researchers say kills millions of people every year.

Beijing has pledged to peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060.

Investment in solar power nearly tripled in the first four months of the year to 29 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) from investment in January-April a year earlier, according to data. National Energy Administration data.

But China’s energy policy has remained a two-headed beast, with the country burning about half of the coal used globally each year to power its economy.

Policymakers embraced coal more as the war in Ukraine drove up oil and natural gas prices.

Premier Li Keqiang said coal is supporting China’s energy security at an emergency meeting last week to deal with economic woes, and the central bank approved a $15 billion line of credit to finance coal mining and coal-fired power plants.

In March, the cabinet ordered miners to extract an additional 300 million tonnes of coal this year.

Local governments last year began building new power plants that will boost coal capacity to the maximum since 2016, after an energy crisis crippled swaths of the economy.

Lauri Myllyvirta, a senior analyst at the Center for Energy and Clean Air Research, said “energy security – avoiding another energy shortage and managing geopolitical risks – is the top priority” for China with uncertain economic outlook.

The latest energy plan says renewables will provide “50% of energy consumption growth” through 2025, which is lower than previous official estimates and signals more room to develop coal-fired power.

“Planners are forecasting or preparing for faster demand growth, which would lead to increased fossil fuel use and emissions,” Myllyvirta said.