China’s government plans to boost its goal for solar power installations by 2015 from 21 GW to 35 GW

The decision, which is expected to help the country’s struggling PV manufacturers, was made in response to the high levels of hazardous pollution currently affecting Beijing and other Chinese cities.

Beijing in China has seen smog in the city reach record levels this January and intends to do something about it.

Fossil fuels have played a huge part in the current situation of producing greenhouse gases.

China generates more carbon dioxide than any other country in the world. In 2012 its solar power target for 2015 was 21 gigawatts but it has re-visited this figure and is to increase the target to 35 gigawatts. At the end of 2012 China had 6.5 gigawatts of capacity in place so this would be a dramatic increase.

The Chinese government announced towards the beginning of January that it intended to install an additional 10 gigawatts of solar capacity in 2013. During 2012 China set aside subsidies totalling $2.1 billion for solar project development in the domestic market.

Twenty million people live in Beijing where they had to face factory closures due to the levels of smog and government cars were taken off the streets. This is obviously providing a welcome focus on the solar power industry.

China is increasingly reliant on oil-gas imports and the country faces severe challenges in meeting its energy demands, a report released by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) showed Wednesday.

In 2012, China’s net oil imports amounted to 284 million tonnes, which means the country is 58 percent reliant on foreign supplies in this area, up 1.5 percentage points from a year earlier, according to the report by CNPC Economics and Technology Research Institute.

Natural gas imports amounted to 42.8 billion cubic meters in 2012.

The report said the country’s dependence rates on imports of crude oil and natural gas came in at 56.6 percent and 29 percent, respectively, both representing an increase from the rate a year earlier.

Qian Xingkun, deputy head of the institute, said China’s growing reliance in the sector, under the context of volatile international oil prices and soaring natural gas costs, has created huge pressures on economic growth, making the country more vulnerable in energy security.

The report forecast the country’s oil-gas demands will continue to trend upward this year, with dependence rates on oil and gas imports reaching 59.4 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

Shan Weiguo, a CNPC institute researcher, noted the key to meet the challenges is to keep searching for more and replaceable fuels through technological innovations while putting restraints on irrational consumption.

In consideration of China’s economic development and consumers’ buying power, the country has sometimes intentionally kept prices of oil and gas lower than those on the international markets. However, given the severe energy outlook, the country has decided to let the market play a more important role in guiding consumers to be more economical with their use.

Earlier this month, China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, said the country will promote reforms in its energy and resource pricing system this year.

The State Council, or China’s Cabinet, on Wednesday approved an energy consumption control target, part of the country’s efforts to correct overuse and foster greener growth.

The government aims to keep total energy consumption below 4 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent by 2015, with electricity consumption below 6.15 trillion kilowatt hours, according to a statement released after a State Council meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.

To meet the target, average annual energy consumption growth should be controlled at around 4.3 percent between 2011 and 2015, lower than the 6.6-percent annual increase realized between 2006 and 2010.

Control goals will be split and distributed among local governments, and enterprises will be urged to take more responsibility in energy conservation and environmental protection, the statement said.

The government should boost the role of market forces and innovation when working to improve electricity pricing mechanisms, push forward resource tax reform, and expand the energy-saving service industry, it said.

Efforts will also be directed to improve related laws, regulations and standards, and a national energy survey will be conducted when the time is right, the statement said.

The government should promote its public services in energy supply and strictly prohibit forced power rationing for residential use, it said.

In 2010, China’s primary energy consumption rose 5.9 percent year on year to 3.25 billion tonnes of coal equivalent, making it the world’s second largest energy consumer after the United States.

Electricity used last year grew 5.5 percent from 2011 to 4.96 trillion kilowatt hours, according to National Energy Administration data.

Chinese authorities need to put more stricter measures in force when talking about reducing pollution, as more than 10 percent of the country was shrouded by thick smog this week.

Looking to be determined in reducing air pollution, cities like Beijing have announced plans to shut down heavily polluting plants in urban areas and cut the number of government-owned cars running on the streets.

The moves sound encouraging, but when it comes to actual practice, much stricter supervision has to be implemented to make sure they are followed.

The very reason China is facing such a poor pollution situation is slack supervision. A relevant incident took place in early January in north China’s Shanxi Province – environmental authorities did not tell the public that poisonous liquid aniline had tainted a major river until five days after it was detected.

Some experts also blame the country’s oil giants for churning out substandard products that have increased pollution emissions from automobiles.

Although it is easy to blame businesses for their lack of social responsibility, the fact is that it is the government’s job to keep such behavior in check, instead of just covering it up.

Some local governments fail to take pollution issues seriously, resulting in mass protests in some areas. Some governments have even attempted to silence protestors for fear of losing face and tax money.

It is time for authorities to stop focusing on boosting the GDP and take real action to change China’s economic growth pattern.

In the meantime, Chinese legislators need to work out stricter laws to punish polluters and those who cover up for them.

China currently has an Environmental Protection Law and dozens of other specific laws regarding pollution of the air, soil, forests and water.

However, laws on paper do not necessarily equate with effective implementation. Many businesses and government officials have sidestepped or completely ignored such laws.

Therefore, while enhancing legislation, authorities must improve supervision by making it more convenient for the public to report on polluters and severely punishing environmental officials who are caught shirking their duties.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), has said that the people are the source of China’s power.

However, it is the people who must now depend on the government to lift the smog that has choked so many cities, as well as make other efforts to ensure a greener tomorrow.

Shi Dinghuan, the counselor of China’s State Council and the president of the Chinese Renewable Energy Society, told Bloomberg that China now faces increased pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

he world’s biggest emitter of carbon-dioxide plans to raise the solar target to 35 gigawatts by 2015 from 21 gigawatts set last year, boosting demand for manufactures that suffer from slowing sales in Europe, Shi Dinghuan, the counselor of China’s State Council and the president of Chinese Renewable Energy Society, said today by phone.

“We’ve got more pressure to save energy and reduce emissions as smog worsens due to pollution,” he said. China will use renewable energy to cut coal consumption and support the domestic industry amid U.S. and Europe anti-dumping charges against Chinese solar products, Shi said.

The increase in solar installations first appeared in the Economic Observer today. Shares of solar-device maker China Singyes Solar Technologies Holdings Ltd. (750) rose 2.1 percent in Hong Kong. The new target would increase solar power installations by more than five-fold from 6.5 gigawatts of capacity as of the end of last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.

“China always wants to increase solar power capacity,” said Wang Xiaoting, a Beijing-based analyst at New Energy Finance, a unit of Bloomberg LP. “The nation adjusts the targets from time to time with consideration for practical factors such as related policies and construction conditions.”