CHINA’S ambition to ramp-up its share of renewable energy saw construction of two wind turbines every hour in recent years.
By the end of 2016 it will have installed more solar power than the entire electrical capacity of Switzerland, with the potential to top 30 gigawatts.
The country, which is the world’s biggest polluter, has been keen to show the world it can clean up its act.
However, it came as a surprise to the world when China’s energy authority in November slashed wind and solar targets through to 2020.
This slow-down in its renewables program isn’t a reverse in commitment to clean energy, but simply because the construction of solar panels and wind farms haven’t been matched by upgrades to the electricity grid that is more suited to coal, reports The Wall Street Journal.
China is a 'renewable energy superpower' according to some media reports. Some perspective pic.twitter.com/zXh60OhRwB
— Carbon Counter (@CO2Counter) December 4, 2016
Roughly one-fifth of wind power currently goes undistributed and in some parts of China, it is closer to half. A slow-down in its economy has also caused China’s overall power needs to plateau.
China’s new government targets are total installed solar capacity of 110 gigawatts by 2020, down from earlier guidance by officials of 150, and 210 gigawatts of installed capacity of wind power, down from 250.
“The government needed to give a policy sign that everybody had to cool down,” Paolo Frankl, head of the International Energy Agency’s renewable-energy division told The Wall Street Journal. The message was: “We cannot go ahead like this.”
In particular, transmission lines in remote regions haven’t kept up with the changing face of electricity generation in China. It has also been tough for wind operators to gain access to the grid compared to coal-power generators who have longstanding relationships with the grid managers.
Plus fixed tariffs set by the government for renewables tend to make it more expensive than coal.
The slow-down in renewables construction is expected to be tough for Chinese solar and winder power companies in the near future. Although, in the long run, China’s pledge to stop its carbon emissions rising by 2030 isn’t in doubt.