Clean energy has economic benefits for China
With wind and solar power becoming more affordable and a lower-carbon transformation in full swing, clean energy could give China a more dynamic economy, according to experts on a panel Tuesday at the Wilson Center in Washington.
This event was themed HowtoDecarbonizeChina’s PowerSector. President Xi Jinping addressed climate change as a top priority in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.
“In 2025, alternatives like solar and wind power will be competitive in the energy market. In this context, China has to make strategic changes to maintain economic growth in the meantime being free of a more expensive energy supply,” said Jon Creyts, managing director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, which is dedicated to research on profitable innovations on energy efficiency.
“It also leads to a much, much cleaner, low-carbon grind,” he said. “This is a cheaper approach for China to achieve economic growth in the future. We are moving from 80 percent coal to something substantially different in one of the most complex machines that human beings can ever build.
“That is the Chinese power grind,” Creyts said. “More miles of distribution, more generation capacity than any other grind in the world. And we need to think about what it is going to take to achieve it.”
Besides a commitment to the international community, China is driven to clean energy by domestic demand for cheaper energy and a less-polluted environment, said Jennifer Turner, a senior scholar at the Wilson Center.
“In 2014, less than 10 percent of people were living in extreme poverty,” Creyts said. “And the electricity consumption has also been on the rise from the 300 hours kilowatts per capita in 1980 to 4,100 hours kilowatt. So the electrification and urbanization is correlated with the overall economic productivity that lifts the country out of poverty.”
We s t o n , director of the Regulatory Assistance Project’s China Program, emphasized the importance of a more efficient power model.
Mega-cities in China also facilitate low-carbon energy transformation in China.
“This is a big movement that has shifted,” Creyts said. “Eco-cities did have little political power. But now what we see, in particular two weeks ago in the (climate-change) meeting in Los Angeles, is that you have 11 cities in different provinces that have stepped up, and they are going to be the front-runner of the low-carbon transformation in China.
“And those provinces and cities all agreed to peak early ahead of 2030,” he said.
China has to make strategic changes to maintain economic growth in the meantime being free of a more expensive energy supply.”
Pan Jialiang contributed to this story.
Jon Creyts, managing director of Rocky Mountain Institute