Clean Power

Published on January 4th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


China Share Of Electricity From “Clean Energy” Increases To 20.2%

January 4th, 2013 by  

China’s Xinhua recently announced that the nation’s share of electricity coming from “clean energy” has increased to 20.2%, 3.3% more than at the same time last year. As you may well know, “clean energy,” according to China, includes nuclear and large-scale hydropower.

Wind turbines in China

In the first 11 months of 2012, the China State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) reports that there was 20.3% increase in electricity generated from clean energy sources (compared to 2011)… resulting in, coincidentally, the 20.2% figure noted above.

Climate Connect writes: “In the first eleven months of 2012, 877 billion kWh of electricity was generated from non-fossil based sources. Country’s clean energy power generation was 74.8 billion kWh in November; but a decrease in clean energy generation as compared to October, 2012.”

During these 11 months, hydropower grew by 19.4%, nuclear power grew by 22.9% and wind power grew by 54.2%.

Clean Energy?

“Clean energy” is a rather nebulous term, as I note over on our Clean Energy page. For those who support nuclear power and don’t think nuclear waste is anything to worry about, nuclear is include. As I note on the page above, until it’s clear we can really find a way to get rid of highly radioactive nuclear waste, we hear at CleanTechnica don’t consider nuclear to be clean.

Beyond the nuclear issue, large-scale hydropower has been shown to have horrible effects on ecosystems, human populations, and even global warming in some cases. So, in summary, some hydropower certainly deserves to be callen clean, while some projects should actually be filed under the dirty column. From what I’ve read (though, admittedly, I haven’t read a ton on this subject), China’s hydropower projects shouldn’t be trumpeted as clean energy. If you have more info on this subject, though, please share it with us.

China’s Future

China recently increased its 2015 solar power capacity target to 40 GW (40,000 MW). Less than two years ago, the same 2015 target was just 5 GW — it has increased 8 times over in just about 19 months. The country also plans strong wind power growth.

Furthermore, China is putting a cap on its coal production and use in 2015, and it has scaled back its nuclear power plans. So, while its emissions aren’t going to decrease anytime soon, it is putting a lot into clean energy, and the long-term goal seems to be cleaning up its electricity production. Also, I think the country’s leaders are well aware of its growing drought, flooding, and other extreme weather concerns, as well as the fact that these threats only grow in size with coal-fueled global warming.

If you have any thoughts on this recent news, or China’s electricity production and goals, in general, feel free to chime in below!

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Chris Taylor

    The 20.2% is admirable, but “electrical” share ultimately hides the bad news. Clean “electricity” market share is growing at 3.3% p.a. “Overall” energy use is growing at 8 to 10% pa. More than 90% of the “overall” energy mix is carbon intensive, so by 2020, china will be emitting about 11 giga-tonnes of CO2 p.a. which is 2 giga-tonnes more p.a. than it promised to the UNFCCC. Just this overshoot alone is about half the EU’s annual emissions.

  • Ronald Brak

    The cost of uranium is a very small fraction of the total cost of nuclear power. As new reactors in the developed world are so costly I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s less than 3%. And with the nuclear industry in decline there is no shortage of uranium. So even if commercial thorium reactors were ready to rock and roll right now their economic advantage over uranium reactors would be very small.

  • sean

    hopefully someone has pointed out to them that paying to import coal to burn in power stations while you have solar manufacturers who desperately need more customers is a bit silly.

    • Bob_Wallace

      We don’t have really good storage solutions at the moment. China has to rely on what currently works, as we all do.

      When we get better storage technology I would expect China to quickly move into the lead there as well.

  • Stephan B. Feibish

    How about Thorium?
    Does Clean Technica consider Thorium green?

    • Bob_Wallace

      At this point thorium is hypothetical.

      If someone builds a thorium fueled reactor that produces cheap electricity then we can consider adding them into the mix.

      Same goes for fusion. If/when…

      • Stephan B. Feibish

        You probably already know they had a thorium reactor going at Shippenport, PA back in say 1958. We wanted atomic bombs, so the technology languished.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Yes, I am quite aware of that. I am also aware the Shippingport reactor was used to transmute Thorium 232 to fissile-able Uranium 233 which actually fueled the reaction within the reactor.

          The fact that thorium reactors can be used to create material for nuclear weapons makes them problematic. It’s not the sort of thing we would want to see happening in some parts of the world.

          I’m also aware that the lower cost of thorium did not make the reactor competitive enough to cause others to be built.

          Thorium reactors probably can’t compete with renewable energy. It’s not the fuel cost, it’s the construction, financing and operational cost of reactors. If/when someone builds a modern one we’ll have a better idea but right now you will notice that exactly zero US utility companies are building thorium reactors.

          The cost of renewable energy is low and will continue to drop. If we get affordable/cheap storage then there is no way that nuclear can compete.
          Wind is on its way to 3 cents per kWh, solar to 5. No one suggests that the cost of nuclear energy could be less than 10+ cents. Consider the math….

          • whatmeworry2

            You need to read “Thorium: Energy Cheaper than Coal” by Robert Hargraves


          • Bob_Wallace

            Hargraves has actual electricity cost numbers from a functioning thorium reactor?

            Or more hypotheticals?

            Remember, hypothetically nuclear energy is “too cheap to meter”….

          • Jerry_Nolan

            How did you calculate “Wind is on its way to 3 cents per kWh, solar to 5.”. If wind is so cheap why does it require government subsidies? And what about the cost of the coal or gas plants that need to run when the wind isn’t blowing? Your anti-nuclear position promotes global warming. James Hansen has
            got it right. You’ve got it wrong. Germany is replacing its nuclear
            power with coal. The U.S. is burning fossil fuels for power thanks to
            the anti-nuclear demagogues that prevented further development and
            research of nuclear power. Nuclear power has proven to be thousands of
            times safer than any other power generation method. 4th generation
            reactors will burn the waste of the older reactors. Science will move
            ahead in spite of your efforts to stop it. Read WITH AN OPEN MIND James
            Hansen’s “Storms of our Grand Children” and Robert Hargraves “Thorium:
            Energy cheaper than Coal”.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Wind is on its way to 3 cents per kWh, solar to 5.”.

            I used the EIA LCOE projections.

            “If wind is so cheap why does it require government subsidies?”

            Wind needs a few more years of support in order to get the needed infrastructure in place. Also, subsidies to wind and solar help offset the subsidies given to fossil fuels, helping to level the playing field.

            Subsidies for wind have dropped its price by over 6x in the last 30 years. Subsidies for solar have dropped the price of solar panels by 200x over the same amount of time.

            Subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear have been multiple times what renewables have received and except for fracking causing a temporary drop in natural gas prices we have seen the cost of fossil fuels and nuclear energy rise.

            ” And what about the cost of the coal or gas plants that need to run when the wind isn’t blowing?”

            Forget coal. It’s a dead man walking. Gas is another way of producing electricity, we can use it when the Sun isn’t shining and the wind not blowing. It doesn’t add to the cost of wind or solar, wind and solar save us the cost of burning gas.

            As we develop storage we’ll cut back on gas. Gas is only a temporary evil.

            ” Germany is replacing its nuclear power with coal. ”

            That is factually incorrect. Germany’s new coal burning plants are replacing (not adding to) the older plants that either have been or will soon be decommissioned. Moreover, by 2020, 18.5 gigawatts of coal power capacity will be decommissioned, whereas only 11.3 gigawatts will be newly installed.

            Furthermore those plants will be more efficient, releasing less CO2 per unit electricity produced than are the ones they are replacing.

            Those replacement coal plants were undertaken prior to the decision to close nuclear plants.

            “The U.S. is burning fossil fuels for power thanks to the anti-nuclear demagogues that prevented further development and research of nuclear power.”

            Another incorrect claim. The US has continued to spend large amounts of money on nuclear research.

            The reason that nuclear plants have not been built is because they are not financially viable. The only place we’re seeing new reactors built in the US is where the state government allowes the utility company to seize customer money for construction costs and where the eventual higher price of electricity can be rammed down consumers’ throats. That wouldn’t work in a free market.

            “Nuclear power has proven to be thousands of times safer than any other power generation method.”

            Again, you post the incorrect. Nuclear is safer than coal. No one argues against that, but coal is not one of the energy choices we are considering.
            Nuclear energy is very dangerous. Take in evidence containment domes, emergency pumps and generators, public evacuation plans, squads of armed guards, …. Wind, solar, geothermal require none of that.

            Wind and solar workers work in full exposure to their fuel source with no more protection than sun screen and a wide-brimmed hat.

            The “leftover fuel” from wind and solar create no disposal issues.

            Hansen knows a lot about climate. He’s not well informed when it comes to nuclear energy.

            Sorry, you seem to have drunk from the radioactive Kool Aid cup.

          • Jerry_Nolan

            Sorry, you are wrong on all counts and I am right. Just don’t forget that you guys are responsible for the tons of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere that nuclear energy could have prevented. Sleep well.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You’re correct Jerry. The people with facts are wrong.

            The person with unsupported opinions are right.

            I guess I failed to take note of falling down that rabbit hole…

            (And you’re from an institution of higher learning?)

    • i’ve seen plenty of videos and posts on the potential for thorium reactors, but they seem to be a long way off still… if they ever make their way into the market at all. once something from this century is up and running and we can see if it might compete at all on cost (i.e. actually being used), we’ll give it more consideration. at this point, when countries or states are discussing nuclear reactors, they’re discussing the kind that resulted in great societal disaster in Japan and Europe.

      • Stephan B. Feibish

        If someone else doesn’t do it first, I think India will get a thorium reactor up and running. They have too much thorium in the ground:)

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