China is building more solar and wind power than the rest of the world combined

China is now building more solar and wind power plants than the rest of the world combined — a feat that has led to record low coal use in the country, new research shows.

China is building 339 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale wind and solar power plants, accounting for 64% of the world’s total capacity, according to a report by U.S. think tank Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

This is more than eight times larger than the size of projects underway in the second-ranked country, the US, with 40 GW.

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The pace of China’s actions puts the global target of tripling renewable energy capacity by the end of 2030 “within reach” even without an increase in hydropower, the report said, calling on China to raise the targets in its climate pledges to the United Nations next year.

Beijing is also on track to meet its own 2030 target of installing 1,200 GW of wind and solar power by this month – six years early, Sydney-based think tank Climate Energy Finance said last week.

A key challenge, however, will be to absorb the renewable energy boom as coal-dominated China the network is reaching its capacity limit and is having storage problems.

GEM research analyst Aiqun Yu said China will need to develop more transmission lines faster.

However, new generation capacity has recently driven renewable energy production to record highs, according to separate analysis published Thursday by Carbon Brief.

Coal energy at record low

In May, solar accounted for 12% of China’s power generation, while wind accounted for 11%, thanks to a surge in new capacity. Hydropower accounted for 15%, nuclear 5% and biomass 2% of other non-fossil energy sources.

This would mean a record 44% of China’s electricity would come from sources other than fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, in May, energy production from coal amounted to 53%, which is the lowest result on record.

The figures suggest that China’s carbon dioxide emissions could have peaked last year if trends continue, according to an analysis by Lauri Myllyvirta, a senior researcher at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

The share of coal fell from 60% in May 2023.

The rise in renewable energy production caused carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, which account for about 40% of China’s total emissions, to fall by 3.6% in May.

“If the current rapid expansion of wind and solar power continues, China’s CO2 emissions will likely continue to decline, making 2023 the country’s peak emissions year,” Myllyvirta wrote.

  • Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena

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Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is the Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has been working as a digital journalist since 2013 and is an experienced writer and multimedia producer. As a trader and investor, she has a keen interest in the new economy, emerging markets and the intersection of finance and society. You can write to her at (email protected)