China aims to double its wind and solar capacity by 2025, according to a new road map that also allows for more coal-fired power plants to bolster energy security.
The world’s biggest polluter earlier estimated it needs to double wind and solar use by 2030 to deliver on its pledges under the Paris climate accord.
The latest plan — if implemented — means China might reach that goal earlier.
But Beijing has also ramped up reliance on coal-fired power plants in recent months to support its ailing economy as the Ukraine war pushes up global energy prices.
The country’s central economic planner said 33 percent of power supply to the national grid will come from renewable sources by 2025, up from 29 percent in 2020, in a document released Wednesday.
“In 2025, the annual power generation from renewable energy will reach about 3.3 trillion kilowatt-hours… and the wind power and solar power generation will double,” the plan said.
China, already the world’s largest producer of renewable energy, has accelerated investment in solar and wind projects to tackle pollution at home, which researchers say kills millions every year.
Beijing has pledged to peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060.
Investment in solar energy nearly tripled in the first four months of the year to 29 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) compared with January to April investment in the previous year, data from the National Energy Administration shows.
But China’s energy policy has remained a two-headed beast, with the country burning about half the coal used globally each year to power its economy.
Policymakers further embraced coal as the Ukraine war pushed up prices of oil and natural gas.
Premier Li Keqiang said coal underpinned China’s energy security in an emergency meeting last week to address economic woes, and the central bank has approved a $15 billion credit line to fund coal mining and coal-fired plants.
In March, the cabinet ordered miners to dig up 300 million tons of extra coal this year.
Local governments started building new power plants last year that will boost capacity from coal by the most since 2016, after an energy crunch paralysed swathes of the economy.
Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said “energy security — avoiding another energy shortage and managing geopolitical risks — is the overwhelming priority” for China with the economic outlook uncertain.
The latest energy plan says renewables will supply “50 percent of the growth in power consumption” to 2025, lower than previous official estimates and signalling more room to expand coal power.
“The planners are projecting, or preparing for, faster demand growth which would see fossil fuel use and emissions still increase,” Myllyvirta said.