An article by Beth Gardiner, The New York Times.
Even as China’s economy begins to cool, its hunger for energy is still climbing.
So also is its capacity to generate power from multiple sources, ranging from coal and nuclear to wind, solar and hydroelectric.
Those trends look similar across Asia, where soaring energy needs are outpacing the expansion of climate-friendly renewable power.
More than $250 billion a year is expected to be poured into the construction of renewable energy production in Asia, representing two-thirds of the region’s total power investment, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, an analysis and consulting firm. By 2030, the firm projects that carbon-free sources will provide a third of the region’s electricity, with solar the biggest contributor.
Yet the use of fossil fuels like coal and oil is growing too, meaning Asia’s emissions of climate-warming gases are also on an upward trend.
“It is a story about growth,” said Justin Wu, lead Asia analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Asia, he said, “is going to add a lot more power of all kinds.”
China is the region’s energy behemoth, accounting for almost half of global coal use while also leading the world in its installation of solar, wind and other renewable technologies.
Its political leaders take clean energy seriously, and they are driving a huge expansion, with China’s wind turbines alone expected to produce nearly two and a half times the entire power generating capacity of Britain by 2020, said Xin Li, a fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
That commitment was reflected in the landmark climate deal announced during President Obama’s visit this month. President Xi Jinping promised China would get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, and said its carbon emissions would peak by that year. Experts say China was probably on track toward those goals anyway, but making them explicit is significant, and may help jolt international negotiations.
Last year, for the first time, the amount of newly completed zero-carbon-emission energy sources in China exceeded the new coal capacity that was built, said Michal Meidan, an associate fellow at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank in London.
Mr. Wu, of Bloomberg New Energy, said, “I’ve heard people say a new coal plant gets built every week” in China. “That’s probably still true. But for every coal plant that’s built, a lot more solar and wind are built as well, and a lot of old coal plants are probably shutting down, the less efficient ones.”
Yet, even if it is gradually declining as a percentage of the energy mix, coal use in China remains huge, and annual usage is likely to keep growing for two decades, said Linda Doman, a senior international energy analyst at the United States Energy Information Administration. The agency’s projections do not take the U.S.-China announcement into account, but indicated in any case that China’s steepest coal and carbon increases would come before 2030.