Most people acknowledge that China's carbon emissions are the planet's single largest threat to tackling climate change. However, new evidence suggests that plummeting renewable energy and battery prices mean China could hit 62% clean power and cut costs 11% by 2030.
China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, and is building the most power plants of any country in the world, making its decarbonization paramount to preventing dangerous climate change. But the costs of wind, solar, and energy storage have fallen so fast that building clean power is now cheaper than building fossil fuels - a lot cheaper.
New research shows plummeting clean energy prices mean China could reliably run its grids on at least 62% non-fossil electricity generation by 2030, while cutting costs 11% compared to a business-as-usual approach. Once again, it’s cheaper to save the climate than destroy it.
While fast-falling clean energy prices make China’s clean energy transition possible, only smart policy can achieve a low-carbon electricity future. Fortunately, this clean energy transition would also spur long-term sustainable economic growth while cleaning the country’s air, reports Forbes.
It may surprise you to know that, even though China is currently still opening coal fired power stations, the country has also demonstrated unparalleled ability to scale zero-carbon generation, leading the world in installed wind and solar capacity, as well as nuclear power.
China plans its economy in “Five Year Plans” guiding development and serving as the principal measure of performance for government officials. The plans lay out binding, quantitative targets for everything from the economy and infrastructure, to health and social development, to the environment. China’s leaders are currently developing the 14th Five Year Plan for 2021-2025, and greater climate and clean energy ambition could accelerate decarbonization.
The leaders will undoubtedly be aware that the global weighted-average levelized costs of electricity of utility-scale solar panels, onshore wind, and battery storage have fallen dramatically by 77%, 35%, and 85%, respectively, between 2010 and 2018.
But as the new paper from Stony Brook University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers points out, even these optimistic analyses fail to capture just how dramatically renewable energy and storage prices have dropped in recent years.
If the rapid downward price trend for renewable energy continues and capital investment choices shift away from fossil fuels, China can provide 62% of its electricity from non-fossil sources by the end of the decade.
This trend mirrors widely reported modeling showing the U.S. can reach 90% clean energy by 2035 while cutting wholesale power costs 10%.
Perhaps there is now good reason for more optimism regarding carbon emission reductions by the world's two biggest culprits.
Original source: Forbes