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e-Journal

 

China’s Surge in Renewable Energy

(Released May 2011 2011)

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  by Ethan Goffman  

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Key Citations

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News

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Conclusion

Contents

Suffering from severe and increasing pollution that threatens public health and generates social unrest, China began the 21st century with an ambitious program in clean energy. In 2001, only .02% of China’s energy mix was nonhydroelectric renewable energy (Wang & Li 189). Today, some 4% of its energy mix comes from wind, solar and biomass; it expects to double that amount by 2020 (Bradsher China Leading). From the beginning, export-oriented growth was part of this strategy, and China now leads the world in producing wind and solar parts.

 

Chinese Worker stacks green coal
A Chinese worker stacks the environmental-friendly "green" coal bricks at a plant in Shenyang.

Indeed export, spurred by cheap labor and government subsidies, has dominated China ’s industrial strategy since the late 1970s, leading to phenomenal rates of growth. The curse of this strategy has been pollution and environmental degradation. By its massive switch to clean energy, China has achieved a double benefit, economic and environmental. Yet it is unlikely to be enough to offset China’s enormous growth rate, which averaged 10.4% from 2001 to 2010, during which energy demand rose an astonishing 220% (Watts). Clean energy will only somewhat offset this. According to one study, coal’s portion of power generated “will shrink to 63% by 2020 and 51% by 2030 . . . down from 78%” in 2010 (Winning). This would be an impressive achievement; however, unless it is accompanied by a sharp drop in annual growth, China’s local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise. Aware of this, China has taken the unprecedented step of announcing that it will try to lower its annual economic growth rate, setting a 7% target over the next five years (Watts). For a country that has long pushed economic growth to the exclusion of all else, in a world obsessed with economic growth, this would be a revolutionary change. In combination with China’s push for renewable energy, perhaps this is the beginning of a paradigm shift? Perhaps it signals a switch to true sustainability, both economic and environmental? If so, not just China but the entire world can breathe a little easier.

© 2011, ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

List of Visuals

  1. Thick haze blown off the Eastern coast of China, over Bo Hai Bay and theYellow Sea. The haze likely results from urban and industrial pollution.
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Haze_over_China_25-06-2009.jpg
    Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
  2. This picture taken 18 July 2006 shows cyclists passing through thick pollution from a factory in Yutian, 100 kms east of Beijing in China's northwest Hebei province.
    Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images (2007), taken from Proquest's eLibrary.
  3. China CO2 emission per millions of metric tons from 1980 to 2009.
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carbon_Dioxine_Emissions_from_Consumption_in_China.png
    Wikimedia Commons.
  4. Wind power plants in Xinjiang, China.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wind_power_plants_in_Xinjiang,_China.jpg
    Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
  5. A new neighborhood in Tieshan (Huangshi Prefecture-Level City, Hubei). Typically for Hubei, the buildings are equipped with solar water heaters.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tieshan-solar-water-heaters-0101.jpg
    Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
  6. Three Gorges Dam site, Sandouping, Hubei province, China. The Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest capacity hydroelectric power station with a total generating capacity of 18,200 MW.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:200407-sandouping-sanxiadaba.jpg
    Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
  7. Peter Corless 30 Sep 2005 Analysis of top 40 largest national economies (GDP) by plotting GDP per capita vs. 'energy efficiency' (GDP per million Btus consumed); an inverse examination of 'energy intensity.'
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gdp-energy-efficiency.jpg
    Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
  8. A worker controls the production line of the photoelectric board product at the plant of Tianwei Yingli Green Energy Resources Co., Ltd on June 24, 2009 in Baoding, China. China's top economic planning agency will soon submit a draft support plan of the country's new energy industry to the State Council for approval, a plan that would focus on nuclear power and renewable energy as wind and solar power, according to an official of the National Bureau of Energy.
    Feng Li/Getty Images (2009), taken from ProQuest's eLibrary.
  9. A Chinese worker stacks the environmental-friendly "green" coal bricks at a plant in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning province on December 16, 2009. China is to invest more than three trillion yuan (440 billion USD) in environmental protection over five years from 2011, state media said Thursday, as the country battles widespread pollution.
    STR/AFP/Getty Images, taken from ProQuest's eLibrary.
  10. References
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    2. Anonymous. (2010, April 29). Policy change in china could boost solar sector. Wall Street Journal (Online).

    3. Anonymous. (2011, March 2). China's energy challenge. Wall Street Journal (Online).

    4. Biello, David. (2011, March). Coal fires burning bright. Scientific American, 304(3).

    5. Biello, David. China's energy paradox. (2008, December) Scientific American Earth 3.0, Special Edition, 18 (5).

    6. Bradsher, Keith. (2010, January 31). China leading race to make clean energy. New York Times, pp. B1.

    7. Bradsher, Keith. (2009, July 3). Green power takes root in china. New York Times, pp. B1.

    8. Bradsher, Keith. (2011, January 14). Solar panel maker moves work to china. New York Times, pp. B1.

    9. Bullis, Kevin. (2010, July/August). Solar's great leap forward. Technology Review, pp. 52-58.

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    11. China outlines ten programs for energy efficiency. Energy Bulletin. Post Carbon Institute http://www.energybulletin.net/node/3566. Accessed April 2010.

    12. CIA World Fact Book https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/. Accessed April 2010.


    13. Economy, Elizabeth. (2007, May 7). China vs. Earth: searching for a green path to growth. The Nation, 28-30.


    14. Eilperin, Juliet. (Sep 30, 2010). China goes all-out to out-green the rest of the world; Country surpasses U.S., rest of G-20 with push to develop clean energy sources.The Washington Post, pp. AA4.


    15. Fang, Bay. (2006, June 12). China's renewal. U.S. News & World Report, 140 (22).

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    17. Ford, Peter. (2009, August 11). China's green leap forward. The Christian Science Monitor, pp. 25.

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    19. Ma, Ying. (2OIO, June/July). China's view of climate change. Policy Review, pp. 27-44.

    20. Ma, Haibing. (2011 January 14). Can China do a better job delegating its 2015 energy and emissions targets? Worldwatch Institute http://blogs.worldwatch.org/revolt/can-china-do-a-better-job-delegating-its-2015-energy-and-emissions-targets/. Accessed April 2010.

    21. Ma, Haibing. (2011 February 28). Beyond the numbers: a closer look at china's wind power success. Worldwatch Institute http://blogs.worldwatch.org/revolt/beyond-the-numbers-a-closer-look-at-china%E2%80%99s-wind-power-success/. Accessed April 2010.

    22. Meehan, Chris. Mar 30, 2011. Evergreen Solar has intense meeting with state legislators over layoffs. CleanEnergyAuthority.com http://www.cleanenergyauthority.com/. Accessed April 2010.

    23. Millison, D. 2005. A snapshot of china's hazardous waste management and cleaner production programs. China's Environment and the Challenge of Sustainable Development. New York: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 201-232.

    24. The Monitor's Editorial Board. (2009, August 12). China's great wall to foreign green tech. The Christian Science Monitor. April 2, 2010

    25. Morgan, Jason. Comparing energy costs of nuclear, coal, gas, wind and solar. Nuclear Fissionary http://nuclearfissionary.com/2010/04/02/comparing-energy-costs-of-nuclear-coal-gas-wind-and-solar/. Accessed April 2010.

    26. Mufson, Steve & John Pomfret. (2010, February 28). The new red scare: It's big, bad, efficient, growing, brainy, well-governed and even eco-friendly. China: It's everything we're not. The Washington Post, pp. B1.

    27. Pew Charitable Trusts. 2010. Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race? Growth, Competition and Opportunity in the World's Largest Economies.

    28. Qiu, Jane. 4 March 2011. China announces energy-saving plans. Nature, http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110304/full/news.2011.137.html. Accessed April 2010.

    29. Richburg, Keith. (2011, March 17). China halts approval for new nuclear plants. The Washington Post, pp. A.15.

    30. Wang, F. & Li, H. 2005. Environmental implications of china's energy demands: an overview. China's Environment and the Challenge of Sustainable Development. New York: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 180-200.

    31. Watts, Jonathan. 28 February 2011. China to slow GDP growth in bid to curb emissions. The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/feb/28/china-gdp-emissions. Accessed April 2010.

    32. Winning, David. Playing the nuclear card: as China looks to wean itself off coal, CLP Holdings sees a big opportunity. (2010, November 28). Wall Street Journal (Online).

    33. World Bank. 2010. China: Meeting the Challenges of Offshore and Large-Scale Wind Power.

    34. Yunyun, Liu. (2009, July 23). China's wind power industry shifts into full gear, harnessing wind. Beijing Review, pp. 24-27.