China Is Showing the World What Renewable Energy Dominance Looks Like

Faith Castro
October 5, 2017

In 2016, for the first time in history, solar energy grew faster than any other source of energy. The country is seeking to reduce its reliance on coal and has become the world's largest market for renewables, particularly solar.

The IEA's renewable forecast this year is 12 per cent higher than last year, mostly due to solar PV upward revisions in China, which has accounted for nearly half of the global expansion, and India.

"Still, the current uncertainty over proposed federal tax reforms, global trade and energy policies could alter the economic attractiveness of renewables and hamper their growth over our forecast period", the IEA's report read.

"What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV [systems]", he said in a statement.

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China's push towards solar energy stems from the country's notoriously poor air quality, and in the country's 13th five-year plan, it announced an intention to increase the share of non-fossil energy to 15% by 2020.

The IAE predicted that China, India and America would account for two-thirds of global renewable expansion by 2022 and that renewables would account for 30 percent of global power generation, up from 24 percent in 2016.

The recognition in China dominating PV installations, which accounted for around 50% of total in 2016 was another positive but the IEA claimed that the "growing cost of renewable subsidies and grid integration issues remain two important challenges to further expansion". That production will be equal to about half the globe's coal power capacity, in a fraction of the time it took to build all that coal power. "We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022", Birol added.

And the amount of electricity generated from renewables is expected to grow by more than a third in five years, up to 8,000 terawatt hours in 2022, the equivalent to the total power consumption of China, India and Germany combined. "This marks a turning point and underpins our more optimistic solar PV forecast". The growth in renewable generation will be twice as large as that of gas and coal combined, the IEA said. "But I have to say, we should not forget the biofuels, which at the end of 2016 represented 96 percent of total renewable transport". By the end of 2016, China had increased its solar PV capacity by almost 800 times, with more than 77 gigawatts now installed. As a whole, renewables represented almost two-thirds of new electricity capacity additions past year, far outshining coal and natural gas growth.

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