The director of renewable energy for China’s national policy-making bureau told an international energy conference in Beijing last week that his country is considering boosting its commitment to solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric power by as much as 50%.
“By 2020 renewable energy (could) account for 15 percent of energy production in China, including large-scale hydropower projects,” Shi Lishan of China’s National Development and Reform Commission told conference attendees. Currently, the country derives about 7% of its power from renewables, and is on track to meet its previously established long-term goal of 10% by 2020.
Environmentalists are cheering China’s continued commitment to renewables. As a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, the country is assessing its options for reducing its coal consumption despite possession of some of the world’s largest coal mines. Chinese engineers have also been on the forefront of technological development to minimize the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels through gasification, carbon storage and other techniques. Also, acid rain from power generation has been a major problem across China, so efforts to scale back the burning of fossil fuels are welcome even in rural areas, which are often directly downwind of smokestacks.
Meanwhile, other greens are concerned that a big chunk of China’s new renewable energy will come from large-scale hydroelectric power, which can threaten wildlife populations and degrade riparian ecosystems. But in the face of the world’s growing environmental problems and China’s potential impact, everyone agrees that at least the world’s most populous country is moving in the right direction.