April 26, 2018 Read More →

As United States Looks to Coal, China Invests in Renewable Energy


As the United States works to revitalize coal and other fossil fuel industries, China is reaffirming its efforts towards renewable energy, investing considerable resources in expanding solar power and clearing hurdles for businesses to shift towards sustainable energy options.

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced on Thursday that the country would “ease the burden” on renewable power generators, ordering local governments to give priority access and to “promptly accept” such companies. Guaranteed purchase agreements must also be fortified and local governments failing to meet the standards laid out by the NEA will face repercussions.

That announcement comes only two days after the NEA announced that China installed nearly 10 gigawatts (GW) of new solar photovoltaic capacity in the first quarter of 2018 — a 22 percent increase over the same time period last year.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the signing ceremony by foreign ministers during the BRICS summit in Goa, India, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Manish Swarup

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The country’s endeavors have global implications for consumers. Solar panels are becoming cheaper and cheaper thanks in large part to China, which has oversupplied the market and driven down costs in the process. China is also reportedly eyeing the electric bus market, something that could similarly incentivize investors globally.

China’s efforts stand in stark contrast to those of the United States. President Trump announced that the country would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement last June, arguing that the deal put the United States at a disadvantage while benefiting other countries. The prospect of a U.S. exit has placed pressure on countries like China to take on new climate leadership roles, with or without U.S. assistance.

Following Trump’s announcement, China reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris agreement’s targets, vowing that the nation would share responsibility in global sustainable development efforts. As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (closely followed by the United States), China’s role in combating climate change is largely seen as critical.

The country seems to be rising to the occasion: Despite ongoing investments in coal, China is also the world’s largest investor in renewable energy, according to a 2018 report from the U.S.-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). That’s in keeping with trends from past years.

China passed the United States in renewable energy investment in 2009 by a mere $14 billion; in the time since, that gap has increased dramatically. In 2017, more than half of global renewable energy investment (nearly $280 billion) came from China. To put that into context, for every $1 the United States put into renewable energy last year, China spent $3.

As United States looks to coal, China invests in renewable energy

Posted in: IEEFA In the News

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