China’s National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) has written a draft policy that would increase the renewable energy target from 20% to 35% by 2030.
For a long time, it has seemed that the Chinese 2030 renewable energy target of 20% was incredibly low given the amount of renewable energy it has been adding. For example, in 2017, China installed more than 52 gigawatts (GW) of solar, which is about as much as has been installed in the United States since … forever.
If the increase becomes law, it would certainly be tremendous news — its effect could be wide ranging. However, it’s going to take a long time to sort out what is really going on. One of the reasons this target is being implemented is because the national government seems to be having difficulty slowing the construction of coal power plants. Reporting on emissions, coal consumption, etc., has been all over the map, and it appears that will continue. I have long been taking all of the emissions news coming out of China with a grain of salt. There have been so many conflicting reports. However, it is clear that renewable energy is growing and simultaneously dropping in price.
The Guardian and the China South Morning are both reporting that satellite photos show unapproved coal power plant construction continuing. Thankfully, the newly proposed Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards for 2030 will have some teeth. Companies that do not meet the standards will be fined and the proceeds will be used to cover the renewable energy subsidies.
A key difference is the new standards extend to cover private companies not under control of state-run companies. Renewable energy certificates will be created and distributed to companies that produce renewable energy, which can then in turn be bought by other companies. The proceeds from the sale of these certificates will be deducted from subsidies.
The 35% target is more in line with the EU’s target of 40% by 2030. While the United States does not have clear national targets, numerous states and cities have more impressive targets for 2030. For example, California is aiming for 50% by 2030.
Overall, this news looks great, but the world has to remain vigilant. For example, a Google whistleblower recently revealed that Google worked with the Chinese government to create a search engine that would give potentially false air quality information to the public*. The BBC reported, that Google worked on “explicit code to ensure only Chinese government-approved air quality data would be returned in response to Chinese users’ search.”
*Editor’s note: WTF?