IN BRIEF: On Saturday, the National Energy Administration (NEA) noted that China has more than doubled its solar production in 2016 – making it the biggest producer of solar energy in terms of capacity. Transitioning to renewable energy will require continued focus and effort, given that the total renewable energy output is only one percent of the country’s total energy output.
Even though China is now the biggest producer of solar energy, it doesn’t compare well to less populated nations in terms of energy-output ratio.
Low Energy Output Ratio
By the end of 2016, China hit 77.42 gigawatts, which generated 66.2 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable power. While the raw numbers may look a lot impressive, it’s relatively trivial if you consider the country’s massive population. China’s total renewable energy output only accounts for 1% of the total generated power.
Taking into account its gargantuan population, China’s renewable energy efforts pale in comparison to developed economies like the United States. China has almost 17 times as many citizens as Germany and produces less solar power per citizen than the European nation.
Germany produces around 500 watts per citizen, while China produces about 65. Other developed nations, including Japan, Belgium, Italy, and the United States remain far ahead of China in per-capita solar production.
Its capital city, Beijing is hoping to effectively cut its reliance on coal and switch to natural gas. Last week, the city’s major Cai Qi promised to make extra abatement measures to reduce its coal consumption by another 30 percent.
Air quality in Beijing is off the charts, exceeding maximum 500 mark on the index. More than a dozen cities in the neighboring Hebei and Shadong provinces remain smog-shrouded. Cities in the past have closed schools and halted construction work as the air quality passed a threshold set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for human safety.
Triple Solar Power Capacity in Five Years
In a conference in Beijing last year, Nur Bekri, head of the National Energy Administration, said China aims to more than trip the solar power capacity by 2020. The country plans to add a total of 110 gigawatts of capacity from green sources in the next five years. According to a Reuters report, China will be investing 2.5 trillion yuan ($364 billion) into renewable power generation by 2020.
The dedication to renewable energy sources could put pressure on other nations to do the same. India announced yesterday that their PV (solar photovoltaic) capacity had reached 9 gigawatts, outpacing Japan. Saudi Arabia, in response to the plummeting oil prices, is investing close to $50 billion in solar and wind power. In January, Ireland passed a bill that would make it the first country to completely divest from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, other countries are finding creative ways of harnessing green energy for power. Iceland, for example, is digging a hole into a giant volcano to bore the world’s deepest geothermal hole.