China is leading the solar energy revolution
China is the world largest market for solar energy. In 2015, China surpassed Germany as the country with the most solar capacity (43 GW) as announced by the China Photovoltaic Industry Association. The world leading solar PV country is also a driving force in the industry. With 53GW of new solar capacity installed and $86.5 billion invested in 2017, China accounted for just over half of that new global solar capacity and for 45% of the $279.8 billion committed worldwide to all renewables (Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment) The goal for 2050 is to reach 1,300 GW of solar capacity.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than 60% of the world’s solar panels are made in China, making the country the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of solar panel technology. In addition, the cost of photovoltaic technology continues to fall in China and the solar industry is not limited by government quota.
China’s war against pollution
China’s remarkable economic expansion in the last four decades has been fueled largely by coal, the country’s biggest anthropogenic contributor to pollution. Air pollution in China is such a serious issue, that in 2015, the independent research group Berkeley Earth estimated it caused 1.6 million deaths in the country. The concentration of smog is higher in the northern regions of Shanxi or Hebei, where the coal mining and steel production factories are located. In these areas, pollution reaches alarming levels. The industrial activities produce and emit in the atmosphere a type of molecular particle (PM2.5) which is highly harmful to health due to its ability to penetrate into the pulmonary alveoli with possible diffusion in the blood.
Environmental pollution control policies with related incentives are not new to China, given the severity of the threat. To cope with the environmental challenge and energy security, China has taken giant strides in redesigning the energy mix. Nowadays, China is leading the way in the renewable energy industry, by being the largest manufacturer, exporter, and installer of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicles.
To foster the development of renewable energy (2016-2020), with a particular focus on solar energy, the National Energy Administration adopted the 13th Five-Year Plan. The main objectives of the plan are to increase the share of non-fossil energy in total primary energy consumption to 15% by 2020 and 20% by 2030, to increase the installed renewable energy capacity to 680 GW by 2020, and finally to reduce dependence on foreign companies in the sector.
The global energy transformation driven by renewables
Renewables are changing the energy landscape and the patterns of trade, by establishing a new geopolitical power dynamic.
“The global energy transformation driven by renewables can reduce energy-related geopolitical tensions as we know them and will foster greater cooperation between states. This transformation can also mitigate social, economic and environmental challenges that are often among the root causes of geopolitical instability and conflict,” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA.
In recent years, we have witnessed a growth of renewable energy – especially of the sun and wind– at an unprecedented rate. The transition to renewables requires a radical change in the global energy system with several implications in the social, economic and political spheres. In fact, renewable energy sources are widely available around the world. This means that each country could potentially reach its own energy independence, improving trade balance and reducing their vulnerability to volatile prices.
The influential position of China within the renewable energy industry undermines major oil exporters such as Saudi Arabia, according to the report on the geopolitical implications of the changing energy landscape.
“The renewables revolution enhances the global leadership of China, reduces the influence of fossil fuel exporters and brings energy independence to countries around the world,” said Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson– speaking at the launch of the report.
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