China looks set to achieve its target of obtaining 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, according to a new report released by the Worldwatch Institute – an independent environment research organization.
According to Worldwatch’s Beijing-based researcher, Eric Martinot, “China is poised to become a leader in renewables manufacturing, which will have global implications for the future of the technology.”
China is expected to have invested over $10 billion in new renewables capacity by the end of 2007, second only to Germany. Wind and solar energy are expanding particularly rapidly in China, with production of wind turbines and solar cells both doubling in 2006. China is poised to pass world solar and wind manufacturing leaders in Europe, Japan, and North America in the next three years, and it already dominates the markets for solar hot water and small hydropower.
Growth in solar hot water systems has also been rapid, and as Chinese companies now produce the solar heaters at costs of up to one-eighth of those found in the United States and Europe they are becoming an increasingly popular consumer appliance.
Wastes from agricultural facilities in China could yield 80 billion cubic meters of biogas annually, produced from power plants with sugarcane waste as the primary feedstock, and ethanol for bio-fuels is being produced from sorghum, cassava, and sugar cane – but not corn.
It’s not all positive news coming from China, however. The nation still relies on coal for 80% of its electricity, and with a rapidly rising urban population and the booming economy the result is serious air pollution. According to the report only 1 percent of urban Chinese breathe air that meets European air quality standards. Coal generation also leads to the build up of toxic metals, such as mercury, in water supplies and on agricultural fields throughout China.
The report concludes that should China continue to develop its renewable energy at the same rate, it could provide over 30 percent of the nation’s energy by 2050.