Just as the US President-elect fills his cabinet with a raft of climate change deniers, China is taking an opposite approach. The Chinese government energy agency has just announced its plan to spend more than $360 billion over five years investing in renewable energy sources. Laying out their initial plan, they hope to boost employment in the sector to 13 million jobs by 2020 in an effort to shift away from dirty coal-powered stations to cleaner energy sources.
The plan to spend such vast amounts on renewables comes as China emerges as the leader in clean energy worldwide. Last year, as green energy made up more than half of net electricity generation capacity added to the grid globally, China already came in at the top of the list. They now account for 40 percent of the expected growth over the next five years.
While the country’s reputation may be one of dirty coal, helped in large parts by the smog that frequently envelops its urban centers, this is starting to shift. The nation's air pollution issue is no doubt adding to that drive to wean itself off coal. In fact, the amount the country has been burning has been in decline over the last three years, a marked difference from 2013 in which it had increased by 3.7 percent.
Clearly, they have already been investing heavily in renewables, mainly in the form of solar. Over a period of just two years, China doubled its solar installations, and this rate is expected to rocket. One of the world’s largest solar farms is already being constructed in the Ningxia region, and when completed will cover an astonishing 4,607 hectares (11,400 acres). It will have roughly 6 million panels in total, creating a capacity of a whopping 2 gigawatts, more than all the solar in Thailand.
This comes as the price of building such large-scale solar plants has dropped by as much as 40 percent. But it’s not only solar that China will be investing in. They have also expanded their wind power over the last few years, with over $100 billion of the announced investment going into this sector. China will also be putting money into hydropower, tidal, and geothermal.
Despite the clearly impressive moves being made by China, over the same period more than half of the nation's installed power capacity will be fueled by coal.
Either way, from a nation that is frequently vilified for being one of the main sources of carbon emissions, and even by some as the main source of the climate change "myth", they are doing more than their fair share to try and address an issue that will affect us all.