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How China is taking the leadership in renewable energy in the energy global arena

Senior Lecturer in MBA Global Energy and Sustainability Management, Dr Gisele Arruda explores the future with renewable energy.


What an original idea is the giant solar panda!  Thanks to the great symbolism of Chinese culture allied to the willingness of becoming a global leader in clean energy, the solar panda is also a way of calling the world’s attention to the relevance of clean energy for a more sustainable future.

The project is an initiative embraced by China Merchants New Energy Group as an effort to raise awareness among young people in China about clean energy aligned to the UN Development Program goals. The first phase of this project has been concluded on June 30th consisting in the construction of a 248 acre solar farm representing 50 megawatt solar installation that has the capacity of producing 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of solar energy over the next 25 years. The electricity generated from sunshine will mean, in carbon saving terms, one million tons of non-burned coal representing a reduction of carbon emissions by 2.74 million tons, according to government figures.

The company’s plan is to extend the energy production by the construction of a second and third phase of the project in an attempt to convert the Chinese energy system to renewable energy as much as possible in order to establish a tangible global leadership in the field at the same time access to energy is provided to the Chinese countryside at a low carbon cost.

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Another remarkable Chinese initiative is the largest floating solar power plant in operation in the city of Huainan in the Anhui province. The system has a power output capacity of 40 megawatts and supplies energy for a densely populated urban area where land is not available for a solar panda. Other advantages of the floating energy system are low rates of evaporation into the atmosphere that keeps the temperature relatively low around the solar panels, but the most important advantage is the phasing out of coal mines to deaccelerate the energy production from coal exploration.

China is really determined to establish its leadership in shaping a clean energy system as it intends to install an annual average of more than 25 gigawatts of new wind capacity, resulting in a cumulative growth, across the decade, of about 403 gigawatts. These diversified initiatives involving different technologies and different sources of clean energy has the potential to reshape the Chinese economy and society in the next 10 years.

The air quality crisis that has resulted from decades of industrialization based on coal extraction, responsible for an estimated 40 percent of the most dangerous pollution particles in the country’s atmosphere, continues to be an

important motivation to reshape its energy system. China aims to get 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, with massive investments estimated in $360 billion for the next three years according to the government’s energy strategy.

Another important reason for this strategic shift is the concern about Climate Change and the importance of being an active partner supporting the targets of the Paris Agreement. President Xi Jinping set his position and commitment to reduce China’s carbon emissions that according studies, and global energy agencies’ predictions, would peak around 2030.

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China is racing towards its plans to convert its energy system to renewables as quickly as possible, in an attempt to set a new pattern of energy production and use as well as innovating the mind-set in the energy global arena in a time when, despite the global adherence to the Paris Agreement, there are countries insisting in obsolete energy systems or immersed in obscure energy policies.