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IRENA Says China Can Nearly Quadruple Renewable Energy By 2030

REmap2030-1A new report published Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has shown that China can increase its use of renewable energy from 13% to 26% by 2030, representing a nearly fourfold increase if the economic powerhouse is able to pull it off.

“As the largest energy consumer in the world, China must play a pivotal role in the global transition to a sustainable energy future,” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA, at a launch event in Beijing. “China’s energy use is expected to increase 60 per cent by 2030. How China meets that need will determine whether or not the world can curb climate change.”

The report, Renewable Energy Prospects: China, was compiled by IRENA in association with the China National Renewable Energy Centre, and is part of IRENA’s renewable energy roadmap, REmap 2030, which aims to provide a plan to double the global share of the renewable energy mix by 2030.

Following the recent announcement made between China and the US, this report (and others like it) acquire even more significance, as China looks to be actively seeking ways to increase its renewable energy share.

More is Needed than Business-as-Usual

“China can continue its leadership in renewable energy by accelerating action in this area,” said Mr. Amin. “If China acts now to implement more renewable energy, it can reduce air pollution, enhance energy security, benefit its economy, and play a leading role in fighting climate change.”

The report notes that current Chinese policies will only see the country’s renewable energy mix rise to account for 17% by 2030. A further annual investment of $145 billion is necessary to push renewable energies to 26% by 2030, representing an annual increase of $54 billion beyond business-as-usual investment. However, such a seemingly massive increase in investment actually yields an annual savings of $55 to $228 billion by 2030 when other factors are accounted for, such as human health and reduced emissions.

“REmap 2030 shows that China can achieve the energy revolution it’s aiming for – and that it can do so affordably,” said Dolf Gielen, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Center. “It also gives China a higher goal to aspire to, stating that an energy mix with 26 per cent renewables is achievable by 2030.”

Wind Growing to Match Hydro

China has seen steady and impressive growth over the last decade, with its installed renewable power generation capacity increasing each year.

Cumulative renewable power plant capacity in China


Hydroelectricity makes up a large part of China’s renewable energy capacity, but wind has been steadily increasing each year. In 2013, hydroelectric energy accounted for 85% of China’s total renewable energy power generation, but that’s a figure which is dropping each year as other forms of renewable energy increase. Wind power, for instance, has grown at a tremendous pace and sat at 77 GW of installed capacity in 2013.

Economic Growth and Renewable Energy

Fears that economic growth must be stifled in favour of cleaner, more renewable sources of energy have recently been laid to rest, thanks partially to another report published recently that focused on China. The study, China and the New Climate Economy, showed that “China can achieve economic development, energy security and reduce pollution at the same time.”

“The Global New Climate Economy Report which was launched this September provided strong evidence that economic growth could benefit from action on climate change,” said Chen Yuan, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC, who is also a member of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. “China and the New Climate Economy reinforces this message. It indicates that China can ensure healthy economic development, improve energy security and reduce climate risks through collaborative governance on economic, energy and environmental goals.”

As a result, reports such as IRENA’s Renewable Energy Prospects: China can now be taken with less fear and more hope. Solutions such as IRENA’s for renewable growth combined with the possibility of continued economic growth will help stem the fears of those who believe that America will be doing all the work, allowing China to simply continue as it has been.

2010 to 2030

The REmap analysis takes the reader through the last two decades and two decades into the future. According to its figures, coal consumption should flatten over the next two decades, and growth in solar, wind, bioenergy, and hydro will follow in line.


China’s total final energy consumption (TFEC) is expected to increase from 2010 levels of 57 EJ (exajoules) to 92 EJ in 2030, an increase of 60% over 20 years. However, total fossil fuel demand is expected to increase at a slower rate of 40% over the same period, with the remaining shortfall being covered by an increase in natural gas, with demand for coal only increasing 13%.

The REmap report’s Reference Case — which “represents policies in place or under consideration, including energy efficiency improvements” — sees renewable power generation increasing from approximately 800 TWh per year in 2010 to around 2600 TWh by 2030, with hydroelectricity generating 1600 TWh.


However, according to the REmap analysis, China’s renewable energy use in terms of TFEC could expand to approximately 23 EJ by 2030, approximately 26% in the share of TFEC.


The full report can be read here (PDF)

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