China is, by far, the biggest consumer of coal power in the world. While at the moment its energy consumption is 70 percent coal-based — other industrialized nations average around 30 percent, the United States being 25 percent — China apparently sees the value in switching to renewable energies.
Renewable energies are a smarter choice adapting to a changing climate. They offer a power source much less harmful to the planet, and they give a country a chance to diversify which means more energy resilience. Relying on a staple energy source such as petroleum or coal presents too much of a risk if that source is compromised — we’ve all certainly felt that at the gas pump these days.
To that end China has resolved to make some changes for the better.
Developing solar and wind in the Gobi Desert
China has pledged to build its solar and wind power capacity up to 1,200 gigawatts. Much of the solar in that will be built in one of the most arid regions of the planet and certainly one well suited to collecting energy from the sun: the Gobi Desert.
“China is going to build the biggest scale of solar and wind power generation capacity on the Gobi and desert in history, at 450 GW,” said He Lifeng, director of the National Development and Reform Commision (NDRC), on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress.
China already has 306 GW of solar power and 328 GW of wind power, with 100 GW worth of additional solar power already under construction in the desert. While it still will use coal for most of its energy needs, China is trying to put a ceiling on its carbon emissions peak by 2030.
To give you an idea of the scale and relevance of this scale-up, the United States needs power sources to account for about 500 gigawatts. This would be a significant boost for the renewable energy field.