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Following China’s Lead To Rely On Homegrown Renewable Industry

“With the failure of international agreements to fight climate change, the way is open to viewing the role of renewables as more than agents for reducing carbon emissions.”

So writes John Mathews, a professor of strategic management at Macquarie University, and Hao Tan, a senior lecturer with Newcastle Business School, in a piece timed to release in conjunction with a Comment piece in the journal Nature. And while this opening sentence may provoke a series of responses all on its own, the “role of renewables” should be the focus.

Mathews and Tan published their Comment piece in Nature last week, and wrote that “countries should follow China’s lead and boost markets for water, wind and solar power technologies to drive down costs.” While acknowledging that China is still the world’s largest generator of electricity and carbon emissions, the authors are quick to remind that China is also the world’s largest producer of electricity from renewable energy sources.

China has boosted its water, wind, and solar power markets to such an extent that it is now driving down the costs of these technologies, therefore “accelerating the uptake of renewable energy.”

“China leads the world in the production and use of wind turbines, solar-photovoltaic cells and smart-grid technologies, generating almost as much water, wind and solar energy as all of France and Germany’s power plants combined.”

But despite the obvious environmental benefits China’s push towards renewable energy entails, Mathews and Tan are quick to point out that “China’s largest investments in renewables are best understood as enhancing the country’s energy security and not solely as a means of reducing carbon emissions.”

We’ve seen over the past month or two that China is making monumental strides towards reversing their heavy coal use. In early August, Chinese state media reported that the country’s capital of Beijing was moving forward on banning the use of coal by 2020 in six inner-city districts. A few days later, as if to prove its intentions, Beijing announced that it had already cut coal use by 7% in the first half of 2014. At the same time, China not only increased its solar installation target to 13 GW, but was the highlight of a report which stated that the country may very well hit 100 GW worth of solar PV capacity by 2018.

China, on a variety of different fronts, is moving against the well-known limited resource of coal. There are of course side-benefits — such as a reduction of the country’s almost comical pollution levels, and the increase in renewable energy industry profits — but at the heart of it, China is securing an energy future that many countries seem to be ignoring.

The Comment piece from Nature can be viewed here, while the companion piece is written in The Conversation. The authors go into great detail to explain China’s current energy trends, and the juxtaposition of countries such as the US and the UK.

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