China’s push towards renewable energy

Worldwatch Institute has published a report Powering China’s Development which predicts that China will exceed its target of obtaining 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from 8% in 2007. Last year its investment of over $10 billion was second only to Germany. Is their authoritarian approach the only way to drive forwards the green agenda?

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13 Responses to China’s push towards renewable energy

  1. suburbanlife says:

    Yes, it seems so. Voluntary change of direction as seen by Western Countries dragging their heels to adopt necessary changes seem not to be working. G

  2. matt says:

    The old carrot and stick approach seems the best way but as to the mix of the two, hard to say. Certainly things can move faster via legislation. The EU is taking this road more and more via their many enviroment directives. The WEEE directive is an excellent example of this.

    I am impressed with the number of world beating renewable projects that China has announced over recent years. However the Three Gorges dam is one authoritarian approach I wouldn’t want to encourage. Although it supplies relatively clean electricity and meets 10% of China’s demand, it has displaced 1.3m people and disturbed whole ecosystems forever.

  3. earthpal says:

    I echo what Matt said. We can applaud their achievements as highlighted by Keith but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword when we consider some of their oppressive policies in order to reach these eco-advances (not to mention their wider human rights record).

    I was impressed to find out that China actually made a law back in 2005 which required them to finance renewables research and also required state owned utility services to get their electricity from renewables.

  4. keithsc says:

    I am a member of Amnesty International and I really don’t want to believe that the Chinese route is the best way to go down. Their human rights record is dreadful. Yet when you compare their environmental performance with India’s there is a huge difference in the way they are tackling their problems and China’s performance is so much better.

  5. earthpal says:

    Keith, I greatly admire Amnesty International and I try to keep up with their projects/campaigns etc. It’s from their website that I’ve learned much about China’s appalling human rights background.

    There’s certainly a moral dilemma here.

  6. matt says:

    I’m not sure I see a connection between China pushing ahead with renewable energy projects and it’s human rights record. Unless they are using slave/prison labour to build put these projects into place. One thing that may be happening is the confiscation of people’s land to build these wind farms and solar arays. This of course happened with the Three Gorges Dam. Land riots have become the most common form of protest across China as individuals see their life investment taken from them for all manner of infrastructure and business ventures.

  7. keithsc says:

    I would see it in a wider context. Because the Chinese government has such powers it can pursue policies faster than in a democratic society where it has to wait for public opinion. Yet it can also use those powers to suppress human rights – and does.

  8. matt says:

    Yes I see your point. Good and bad come from this. And yet faraway we see Kenya still struggling with ‘democracy’ along tribal lines while it’s economy also languishes.

  9. matt says:

    Yes I see your point. Good and bad come from this. And yet faraway we see Kenya still struggling with ‘democracy’ along tribal lines while it’s economy also languishes. And here in the UK we have talked for decades about tidal power …..

  10. All aspects of China’s economy have been planned, and reaching their renewable goals are very closely tied to a number of other development goals.

    Where I am most excited is that in china you will see the largest markets for technologies, the strongest manufacturers, and with so many of the problems in their backyard, many of the solutions will be driven here.

    Perhaps if western governments would actually put the politics of corn behind them, make decisions that are actually in the best interests of their people (not necessarily something that will get them elected), the west would reach their goals as well. However, with corn being the only proven political easy decision to make, I am not as certain about the U.S.’s ability to really get behind the full range of options.

    r

    http://www.china-crossroads.com

  11. matt says:

    Hi Rich

    You have an interesting site over there in Shanghai and an important goal in CSR.

    Yes, China does have it’s grand 5 year plans but I guess it must be difficult to follow them through within a huge country and bureaucratic structure. I think you’re right though that China is and will continue to be the place for ground breaking application of new energy saving and different types of energy technologies.

  12. the Grit says:

    Hi y’all,

    A couple of points. First, in the case of China, you have to consider how rapidly their energy demands are growing along with their striving toward renewable energy supplies, which brings any favorable image of their development sharply downward. Second, at least for the US, direct Government investment of capital is not the only measure that needs to be considered. If our local TV ads are any indication, Government tax breaks are having a huge impact in this area. The number of commercials I am bombarded with daily from oil companies telling me how much they are investing in renewable energy projects is, truly, astounding. If they are spending as much on actually building solar and wind generation projects as on the advertising, our Government encouraged private sector investment dwarfs China’s Government funding.

    the Grit

  13. keithsc says:

    I think we need some figures here. China’s energy demand is rapidly increasing – although it has a long way to go to reach America’s consumption per person – and the statistics show that in spite of that they are increasing their percentage of renewable energy. Surely it is more encouraging it is increasing at a time of rapid growth rather than less because it means there are huge and increasing resources being put into it. Whereas the US are talking the talk but are they really walking the walk?

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