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As the most populous country in the world, China has already begun to plan for the future by investing heavily in renewable energy.

As the most populous country in the world, China has already begun to plan for the future by investing heavily in renewable energy. Energy consumption is loosely tied to GDP, and as China’s GDP has been growing in double digits, their energy consumption has grown at a rate of 5.5 percent over the last 25 years, including a 15 percent growth in 2007. Because of this, China has become the second largest largest investor in renewable energy for both economic and environment reasons.

In 2007, China invested $12 billion in renewable energy, up 91 percent from the previous year.  By the end of 2009, China is expected to overtake world leader Germany in total investment. In 2005, about 7.5 percent of China’s electricity came from renewable resources. The government has aggressively targeted total energy production from renewable sources to account for 10 percent by 2010 and 15 percent by 2020.

A major problem with China’s current energy consumption is its strong dependence on coal. In 2007, 69 percent of energy in China came from coal, versus the world average of 40 percent. China produces more than 35 percent of the world’s supply of coal, yet imports are rising. Some estimates have put 2008 coal consumption at 80 percent of total energy use. Coal is arguably the worst fossil fuel for the environment. Mining and burning coal release carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, according to IPCC.

The effects of China’s coal demand can be felt all over the country. Smog clouds can be seen from space and Chinese cities are litter among the top of most polluted city lists. According to the World Bank, health care associated with respiratory illnesses cost China an estimated $100 billion a year. Although China is investing in cleaning up the air in its cities, it cannot truly achieve any sustainable improvement until the dependence on coal is lifted.

In realizing this, China’s investment in renewable energy is impressive. China has invested in solar power, wind power, hydropower, biomass and biofuel, but hydropower and wind power are the most promising and economically feasible.

China’s total wind power production is now over 6 gigawatts. Blessed by plenty of natural wind, China looks to improve wind power production significantly. However, if China plans to reach its target of producing 5 percent of its energy needs by 2020, it will need to improve the efficiency of their wind turbines. Compared to other countries with more experience with wind turbines, China’s turbines are less efficient and break down more often. If China can improve the output of its turbines, it will become the largest producer of wind energy, although it will fall short in term of percentage, as Denmark is  currently the world leader with 20 percent of its energy derived from wind power.

By far the largest producer of alternative energy in China, hydropower produces 100 GW, which accounts for 6 percent of the total energy demand and 90 percent of all renewable energy. By 2020, China plans to triple this output to 300 GW. The Three Gorges Dam, completed in 2007, is the world’s largest dam. Besides the large hydropower plants, China has over 20,000 smaller plants scattered along the countryside. Although these plants account for a small amount of total energy demand, they are sufficient to supply almost one-third of the total population of China with power.

There is no question that China needs to shrink its dependence on coal. But even though China is investing more than any country world wide, they face an uphill battle. Current technology for renewable energy is not very efficient and even reaching 15 percent of demand through renewable energy by 2020 seems very difficult. But as prices for fossil fuels continue to rise, China has no choice but to continue with its investments in order to secure its future energy needs.


Source: www.AsiaEcon.org
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Source: www.asiaecon.org |

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