China outlines plans to triple solar capacity by 2017

More ambitious solar target will help China to cut its reliance on coal as it targets air pollution

An industrial zone of Shanghai by night (Pic: Konstantinos Kazantzoglou/Flickr)

An industrial zone of Shanghai by night (Pic: Konstantinos Kazantzoglou/Flickr)

By Sophie Yeo

China plans to triple its solar power capacity by 2017, indicating the stability of its current rate of development in renewable energy.

In three years, China will increase its installed capacity of solar to 70 gigawatts, according to Bloomberg, reporting on a statement on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission.

This target is double a previous goal set for 2015, and is the latest attempt by Chinese authorities to reduce dependence on coal for energy, which pollutes the air and drives climate change.

The latest announcement shows that China’s efforts to decarbonise their economy are on course, one analyst told Bloomberg.

“This suggests the trend that China will develop alternative energy is stable,” said Wang Xiaoting, a Hong Kong-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The new solar target set for 2017 will be easily attained if China keeps the current development pace.”

China generated about 9% of its primary energy from non-fossil fuel sources as of June 2013. It aims to increase this to 11.4% by 2015, according to the government’s 12th Five Year Plan, and to 15% by 2020.

As well as solar, China plans to install 150 gigawatts of wind power capacity by 2017, 11 GW of biomass power and 330 GW of hydro power.

The renewable energy industry in China currently employs 2.6 million people – more than any other country – according to a recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency. It also found that the solar sector accounted for around 2.3 million jobs in 2013, which were largely concentrated in China.

Despite these efforts, China remains the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and a huge consumer of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.

Air pollution problems, caused largely by the fine particles emitted from burning fossil fuels, have resulted in widespread and increasingly vocal dissatisfaction from the public in cities like Beijing.

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