China and the US – hosts to the world’s two biggest economies, and two biggest power markets, and the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters – have signaled an increase in renewable energy targets to help cut coal production.
In China, the central government has reportedly set targets for faster growth in wind energy capacity and solar power usage through to 2017. It wants to double its wind capacity over four years, and lift its solar capacity three-fold.
In the US, the Obama administration is reportedly considering cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by as much as 25 per cent – by encouraging coal plant owners to expand renewable energy, improve the efficiency of their grids or encourage customers to use less power.
The South China Morning Post reported that a circular issued late last week by the National Development and Reform Commission set a goal of 150 gigawatts (GW) for wind power capacity and 70GW for solar capacity by 2017.
This is part of a new target to lift the non-fossil fuel supply to 13 per cent of total energy consumption. It was 9.8 per cent last year, when China had 77.6GW of wind power capacity, and around 20 GW of solar capacity.
This suggests the trend that China will develop alternative energy is stable,” Wang Xiaoting, a Hong Kong-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said the announcement suggests that the trend line for alternative energy in China is stable. “The new solar target set for 2017 will be easily attained if China keeps the current development pace,” he told Bloomberg.
In order to reach the new targets, an annual average of 18.1 GW of capacity from wind farms and 12.5 GW of solar capacity would need to be added in the four years to 2017. China has fallen short of targets in recent years because of grid bottlenecks and connection problems, but this is now being addressed.
In the US, the Obama administration is reportedly considering using its executive powers through the Clean Air Act to seek
major greenhouse-gas emission cuts from power plants, and moving beyond pollution controls on smokestacks on coal fired generators.
Bloomberg quotes people familiar with the discussions saying the administration could set 25 per cent reduction targets that would involve more renewable energy and energy efficiency programs to reduce demand from the grid.
The full mandate may be phased in over 15 years, as a way to soften the blow on utilities. But they are likely to be fiercely fought by the coal industry.
Power plants account for about 40 percent of the 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide released in the U.S. each year, Bloomberg reports.
The rules, which are scheduled to be released by the Environmental Protection Agency on June 2, are eagerly anticipated by environmental groups who have been pressing Obama to make good on a pledge to take bold steps to reduce the risks of climate change.
The rules on carbon-dioxide emissions promise to be the backbone of US action on global warming for years to come. Obama may even unveil the power plant rules himself.