China’s solar boom is shifting the country from its coal dependence

Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 4 minutes
17 March 2015

BEIJING: China’s solar boom continued last year, when the country added 10.6 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic (PV) power capacity, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said.

The number is almost equal to the whole European PV addition in 2013, according to the latest figures from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association. To put the numbers in perspective, the world added about 45 GW of total capacity last year, as stated by a recent Deutsche Bank report – with a forecast for demand to reach 54 GW this year.

In 2013, China’s solar market reached 12 GW – with some analysts pushing the figure to 14 GW – marking a result that “outstripped all expectations”, Bloomberg New Finance reported.

The just released figures put China on track to shift toward cleaner energy, an absolute necessity due to the record-levels of air pollution that currently affects its heavy-industrialized cities.

“With the ready technology and the government initiatives, now is the time for solar,” remarks Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group. “The Chinese PV industry is an important new energy sector, one which is internationally competitive at that.

“However, we must continue to support the photovoltaic industry and nurture its healthy development by consolidating the international market, pushing for effective reform, and further focusing on demand stimulus. We should also strive to promote industrial innovation and upgrading across China.

“There are clearly still many lessons to be learned on solar in China, but with both government and business collaboration, we will make strides toward a strong and economically viable industry.”

China’s cumulative installed PV capacity overstepped 28 GW at the end of 2014, says NEA – an increase of 60% compared to 2013. Most of it (about 24 GW) came from solar power stations, while distributed solar projects accounted for 4.67 GW.

Last month, the National Bureau of Statistics of China reported the country’s coal consumption fell by 2.9% in 2014 – while at the same time its total energy consumption grew. Last week Bloomberg also added the good news that China’s emissions of CO2 fell last year, as the whole world’s emissions stalled.

However, the consumption of coal in China still accounted for 66% of the total energy consumption last year, while clean energy consumption reached 16.9%. Working on increasing the latter figure, the State Council released an action plan on energy development for 2014-2020 last November, pushing for more efficient, green energy. The country is also working on reducing its energy intensity, which is calculated as units of energy per unit of GDP, by 3.1% this year.

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by Ilario D'Amato

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