As US President Donald Trump pushes for “beautiful, clean coal,” China is speeding ahead in boosting renewable energy.
China almost adds more solar power in three months than the US did all of last year
China’s National Energy Administration said on Tuesday that in the first quarter of 2018, the country had increased its renewable energy capacity, mostly solar, by 15 gigawatts.
That’s the equivalent of building five of America's largest nuclear power plant, the Palo Verde Generating Station, in just three months.
The quarterly jump in solar power capacity alone – 9.65 gigawatts – is almost as much as what the US installed in the whole of last year, at 10.6 gigawatts, and represents an increase of 22% compared to the same period last year.
The energy ministry also reported a decline in renewable power wastage.
A significant amount of solar power goes to waste because it fails to connect to the grid, a phenomenon known as curtailment.
Li Chuangjun, deputy director at the National Energy Administration’s new energy division, said that the solar curtailment rate in the first three months of 2018 more than halved, compared to the same period in 2017.
The developments are good news for China, which is the world's biggest polluter, although not on a per capita basis. Many of its cities are heavily polluted. Others still suffer regular bouts of smog.
Last year, after Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, President Xi Jinping of China said his country would take the “driving seat” in responding to climate change.
In 2017, coal accounted for a little over 60% of the country’s energy sources, falling from 80% in 2010.
Still, as China’s economy continues to grow briskly, its use of electricity has sustained an appetite for coal.
In 2017, China’s coal consumption rose 0.4% compared to 2016 – the first rebound since 2013, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics.
The rebound in coal consumption continued into the first three months of 2018, the sharpest quarterly increase compared to the previous year since 2012, the National Energy Administration said Tuesday.
Unless Beijing gets tough on coal burning, that trend puts China on track to remain the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter.