China goes full throttle on green energy transition to achieve carbon neutrality

GUIYANG, July 12 (Xinhua) — A global forum on ecological civilization, Eco Forum Global Guiyang 2021, opened Monday in Guiyang, capital of southwest China’s Guizhou Province.

The forum will witness a range of online and offline activities. Lots of guests are expected to join the event online, while around 500 are attending the forum on site.

It is tipped to evolve into a global campaign aimed at dramatically reducing the world’s carbon footprint, said Peter Koenig, a former senior economist with the World Bank, attending the event via video link.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of energy, with fossil fuels making up about 85 percent of the energy structure.

China has vowed to attain carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

The country is going full throttle to develop new energy resources and increase their proportion in primary energy consumption nationwide, which are expected to lighten the burden on the environment and ecosystems and provide practical solutions to mitigating soil, surface water and air pollutions, said Lei Yizhu, head of Guizhou’s carbon neutrality research institute.

“Such efforts can also greatly promote China’s carbon dioxide emission reduction, slowing down global warming and improving the global climate conditions,” Lei said.

During the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), as the country strives for low-carbon transition, relevant eco-friendly industries in fields such as clean energy are to cash in the bonanza, said Zhao Weidong, head of the institute of energy conservation and environmental protection affiliated with the Center for Information and Industry Development, under China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The overall geography of China features high altitudes in its western areas. Geographical conditions and poor foundation of transportation infrastructure used to hamper economic development in those regions.

Nowadays, however, the highlands with strong wind and sunny weathers see a flourishing clean energy market.

“Guizhou is a newcomer in developing new energy resources as it has to grapple with mountainous terrains, low wind speeds and rainy weather,” said Shi Shaogui, director of the new energy and renewable energy department of the provincial energy bureau.

A decade ago, Guizhou had no installed power capacity of wind and photovoltaic energy. In 2011, however, the mountainous province pooled over 800 million yuan (about 124 million U.S. dollars) to build its first wind power plant in Jiucaiping.

When colossal wind turbines arrived, Li Xu, a local resident in Hongxing Village, Hezhang County, was startled. He witnessed the difficult transport of hulky wind turbines up to the high mountain.

The development of new energy has since quickened in Guizhou, said Shi. By the end of 2020, the province had installed more than 5.8 million kilowatts of wind power capacity.

Guizhou’s first photovoltaic power station started operation in 2015, and by the end of 2020, the province’s installed photovoltaic power capacity had exceeded 10.57 million kilowatts.

The Xianshuiwo photovoltaic power plant in Yina Township of Bijie City, Guizhou, is built at an elevation of around 2,200 meters. The power plant with rows of solar panels glittering in the sun has helped the local households make good use of their wastelands and photovoltaic resources. It is estimated that the power plant will generate around 504 million kWh of electricity with an average of 1,231 hours of solar power utilization in 2021.

At the Wujiangyuan wind power plant, 198 generator units rotate in the wind. “Though wind farms are demanding in their locations, they can bring huge economic and social benefits to the local residents. The wind power plants are conducive to adjusting the regional energy structure and cutting carbon and harmful gas emission,” said Xu Chaohua, vice general manager of Guizhou clean energy branch under China Huaneng Group.

The Wujiangyuan wind farm has generated over 4.2 billion kWh of power since it started operation, which is equivalent to saving 1.33 million tonnes of standard coal. A total of 3.65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and 119,900 tonnes of sulfur dioxide have been slashed annually thanks to the wind turbines.

By the end of 2020, more than 40 percent of China’s installed power generation capacity came from renewable resources, supporting nearly one third of the country’s electricity consumption, data from the National Energy Administration showed.

As a result, 15.9 percent of China’s primary energy consumption came from non-fossil energy, surpassing a target of 15 percent set for 2020.

In 2018, the National Energy Administration launched a three-year action plan to improve the utilization rate of renewable energy in power generation. Last year, the average utilization rate of wind power and photovoltaic power reached 97 percent and 98 percent, respectively.

Nevertheless, China’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 is not an easy battle.

Gao Jinshan, vice president of Goldwind, a leading renewable energy company located in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, assessed the existing gap between China’s current energy structure and its promise of carbon neutrality at the forum.

By the end of last year, the country’s overall installed capacity of wind power and photovoltaic power generation came in at 280 million kilowatts and about 260 million kilowatts, respectively. However, to achieve the goal of reaching carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and realizing carbon neutrality before 2060, an capacity to generate around 1.2 billion kilowatts of electricity from wind and photovoltaic energy is needed.

Since the total installed capacity of the two energy sectors is expected to reach 540 million kilowatts by the end of 2021, there still lies a gulf of about 700 million kilowatts to fill in, said Gao.

To bridge the gap, China has stepped up its green transition and made comprehensive plans.

Guizhou plans to slash 40.55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2025 and reduce a whopping 71.56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2030 through the use of new energy.

Moreover, the province’s overall output of shale gas and coal bed gas is expected to surpass 100 million cubic meters in 2021, while 10 more garbage power plants will be built this year.

Guanling Buyi and Miao Autonomous County in Guizhou, known for its soil erosion and desertification, had faced numerous challenges on the road to prosperity, but now it has found golden opportunities in the recent renewable energy boom.

“We will have wind farms on the mountains, photovoltaic power plants halfway up the mountain top, and hydropower stations down the mountains in the future, all for the sake of reaching carbon emission peak and neutrality,” said Wei Chaohu, Party secretary of the county.

Currently, the county has an installed power generation capacity of over 4 million kilowatts from renewable resources, and the figure is expected to rise to 5.3 million kilowatts by the end of 2025.

“The photovoltaic power plants need human labor, which are expected to create thousands of job opportunities for local residents and 3 billion yuan of output value when the projects are fully implemented,” Wei said.

A report published in July by Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University, notes that the green reform of the energy industry and its transition to renewable energy plays an important role for realizing China’s ambitious goal of carbon neutrality.

In the future, China plans to promote the eco-friendly transformation of thermal power enterprises with long-term heavy pollution and further explore renewable energy alternatives in the construction of new infrastructure.

“With its low-carbon commitment to the world, China buckles down to develop new energy resources to replace conventional fossil fuels, which greatly demonstrates its responsible stance as a major country and its firm determination to build a community with a shared future for humanity,” said Lei Yizhu.

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