Renewable energy puts nation on track to meet carbon goals

Published: Mon 31 Oct 2022, 11:02 AM

Last updated: Mon 31 Oct 2022, 11:04 AM

Supported by robust supply chains and policy measures, China has performed well in developing renewable energy in recent years. Total installed capacity of renewable energy generation in China rose to 1.1 billion kilowatts over the past 10 years. The combined installed capacity of wind and solar power has reached 670 million kWs, almost 90 times the level in 2012, the National Energy Administration said. During the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), China’s renewable energy generation capacity is expected to account for more than 50 per cent of the total, and the generation capacity of wind and solar power will be doubled, the administration said.


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Wei Hanyang, a power market analyst at the research company BloombergNEF, said part of the reason for this rapid development is China’s advantages in boosting clean power installation due to massive demand from the domestic market. State-owned grid operators have tried to ensure renewables are consumed, rather than wasted.

“Renewable energy has become the principal source of the country’s newly added installed generation capacity in recent years, especially solar and wind power,” Wei Hanyang said. “China leads globally in installed capacities for wind, photovoltaic, hydro and biomass power as it presses ahead with a green development path.”

The country ’s renewable energy sector will grow steadily, and there will be more solar power installations nationwide, he said. China’s rapid development of renewable energy has also attracted multinationals. Shell plc, SABIC and Honeywell have announced plans in recent years to invest in the country’s renewable energy sector because of its rapid growth and huge potential. Global energy and chemical companies are drawing up local plans that cover a broad range of subsectors such as petrochemicals, hydrogen, vehicle charging stations and carbon capture, utilisation and storage, or CCUS.

Shell, which is based in London, has steadily invested in China’s renewable energy market in recent years. Part of the company’s blueprint is to expand its hydrogen presence in the country by building a network of hydrogen refuelling stations in Shanghai — Shell’s first hydrogen refuelling network in Asia — in collaboration with the State-owned Shenergy Group Co. The joint venture said it plans to build six to 10 hydrogen refuelling stations in Shanghai and the Yangtze River Delta region in the next five years, rising to 30 stations by 2030.

Shell also expressed optimism about the prospects for CCUS in China, saying it is essential to help the country achieve a carbon peak by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.

Jason Wong, executive chairman of Shell Companies in China, said the country’s significant geological potential for storing carbon — it has an estimated 2,400 gigatonnes of storage capacity, second only to that of the United States — means there is plenty of potential to tap. The US energy company ExxonMobil has said it will work with China National Offshore Oil Corp and Shell to develop a carbon capture and storage, or CCS, centre in Huizhou, Guangdong province. The facility, China’s first large-scale offshore CCS hub capable of capturing up to 10 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, will significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and meet the decarbonisation needs of companies in the area. Lu o Zu oxian , head o f intelligence and research at the Sinopec Economics and Development Research Institute in Beijing, said foreign investment in China’s energy sector is expected to rise as the country continues to step up its green energy transition with the aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2060.

“Leading in renewable energy production figures for years, China has a market potential that no other country can match,” he said. State-owned energy companies are also helping the country’s green energy transition by optimising their businesses.

China Petrochemical Corp, also known as Sinopec, has continuously boosted its green hydrogen manufacturing capacity and expanded its hydrogen refuelling network across the country.

Taking advantage of its nationwide gas refuelling network, the company has built its hydrogen refuelling network in China. It aims for the refuelling capacity for this gas to reach 120,000 tonnes a year by 2025. Sinopec has stepped up work at its refinery using green hydrogen, which is derived from renewable sources including solar and wind. It is also working to increase the use of renewable energy in hydrogen production to gradually replace fossil fuel in the refinery sector. China has developed a complete industrial system for renewable energy technology over the past 10 years. The country now independently designs and manufactures the world’s largest megawatt-scale hydraulic turbine set. Solar power generation technology has developed rapidly and 10 offshore wind turbines have also entered volume production, the energy administration said. As a result, the scale of development and use of renewable energy in China was equivalent to 753 million tonnes of standard coal last year, reducing carbon dioxide by 2.07 billion tonnes, sulphur dioxide by 400,000 tonnes, and nitrogen oxide by 450,000 tonnes, the administration said.

The country ’s rapid development of renewable energy has boosted global employment. According to the recently published Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2022 from the International Renewable Energy Agency, employment worldwide in the sector reached 12.7 million jobs last year, with China accounting for nearly half the total.

"China leads globally in installed capacities for wind, photovoltaic, hydro and biomass power as it presses ahead with a green development path,” said Wei Hanyang, a power market analyst at the research company BLOOMBERGNEF.

Nearly two-thirds of these jobs are in Asia, with China accounting for 42 per cent of the global figure, followed by the European Union and Brazil with 10 per cent each, and the US and India with 7 per cent each.

Last year 5.4 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector in China, compared with 4.7 million in 2020. Of these positions, solar photovoltaic accounted for the largest share, with a workforce estimated at close to 2.7 million, compared with 2.3 million in 2020. China also accounted for 48 per cent of the 1.4 million jobs in the global onshore and offshore wind market last year, even though the 47 gigawatts added to the sector was considerably less than the previous year. The country was also the largest contributor to hydropower jobs, accounting for 37 per cent of such employment globally.

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