Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Renewable advocates are concerned some fossil fuel projects are receiving a share of China’s “new energy” subsidies.
Why China’s Renewable Energy Transition Is Losing Momentum
BY MICHAEL STANDAERT • SEPTEMBER 26, 2019
Growth of wind and solar in China is slowing as government funding for green energy falters and upgrades to the transmission infrastructure lag. With China’s CO2 emissions again on the rise, experts worry the world’s largest emitter may fall short of key climate goals.
After plateauing from 2014 to 2016, China’s carbon dioxide emissions have risen in the last several years, with an estimated 4 percent increase in the first half of 2019. While coal consumption and production peaked in 2013, both have increased again since 2017 and are slowly creeping back to 2013 levels.
Reliance on gas from fracking in the Sichuan basin, as well as coal-bed methane extraction and increased imports of natural gas (China is the second-largest natural gas importer in the world), are on the rise. Since China counts unconventional gases like shale gas and coal-bed methane as “new energy,” they are eligible for subsidies from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology [MIIT]. Roughly $830 million — more than 80 percent of an MIIT new energy fund — went to subsidizing such projects in 2018, according to a recent report by the state-run China Energy News.
While continuing to fund unconventional gas, China has now largely stopped providing national-level subsidies to wind and solar projects and is implementing reforms to its feed-in-tariff system, moving to replace it with auctions in which wind and solar power must compete directly with fossil fuels.
This process has started to slow the overall added capacity for wind and solar. While new solar photovoltaic installations hit an all-time high of 53 gigawatts [GW] in 2017, they slipped to around 41 GW last year and current figures put solar installations at slightly more than 11 GW for the first half of 2019. Projections are for about 25 GW of solar power to be installed this year and in succeeding years through 2025, an amount that would not sharply curtail fossil fuel use.
Another problem is that renewable energy projects are facing land-use restrictions that protect agricultural, industrial, and urban land in provinces like Guangdong in South China, the country’s economic powerhouse, says Jonathan Luan Dong, a renewables analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. While several non-subsidized renewable energy projects had been scheduled to start in Guangdong in 2019, few actually seem to be moving forward.
When I attempted to visit renewable energy projects that were said to be in the works, government offices and companies in the Guangdong cities of Jiangmen, Meizhou, and Zhanjiang declined my requests because the projects hadn’t started.
…Read more: https://e360.yale.edu/features/why-chinas-renewable-energy-transition-is-losing-momentum
I don’t understand why selling power on the open market, competing directly with coal, is such a problem. Green advocates including the Australian CSIRO repeatedly assure us that renewable energy is cheaper than coal, even without government subsidies and assistance.