On March the 5th, Premier Li Keqiang declared that he would wage a war against the country’s growing pollution. Indeed, if the smog surrounding the Chinese important cities is its most apparent outcome, the pollution is making life hard for Chinese people on many other matters such as food intoxications, the damaging of the groundwater or contaminations of farmlands by heavy metals.
Over the last decade, Chinese investments in renewable energies have risen steadily in sectors related to the wind, the solar energy and the hydropower: in 2012, renewables were able to provide more than a quarter of the Chinese electricity generating capacity, which resulted in China becoming the World’s leader in this field. However, despite their vast appeal, renewable energies cannot fuel the World’s biggest country alone. Currently, coal still accounts for 70% of its energy supply, and according to Zheng Xinye, an energy economist at Renmin University, coal will account for no less than sixty percent of China’s total energy use in the next decade.
While China’s soil doesn’t hold a lot of gas and oil, it contains a large quantity of coal, and one of China’s not so far neighbor, Australia, is one of the World’s largest producers of coal. Besides, coal is considered as one of the most reliable source of energy, while renewables’ efficiency is highly dependent on environmental conditions.
Currently, clean coal technologies are the main area of focus for Chinese investments. For instance, officials hope to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 8% by 2015, using electrostatic precipitators. These kinds of energy policies are more likely to fight back pollution while sustaining the insatiable hunger of the Chinese economy for energy. The Chinese Communist Party is indeed aware that its legitimacy to stay in power is to keep the country on the track of economic development, and thus is not eager to sacrifice any Growth points, which could be the case if the county decided to increase the use of renewables in the Chinese energy mix.
Pour aller plus loin: La croissance verte, une nouvelle perspective – Bettina Laville