China doubles wind and solar plant construction

China’s pledge to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels appears to be on track, with the country doubling its construction of new wind and solar power plants in 2020 compared to the prior year.

China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, added 71.67 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity last year, the most ever and nearly triple 2019’s levels, according to data released by its National Energy Administration (NEA).

China will aim to hit peak emissions before 2030 and for carbon neutrality by 2060, according to President Xi Jinping, speaking last autumn.

The announcement has been seen as potentially hugely significant as China is currently the world’s biggest source of carbon dioxide, responsible for around 28% of global emissions.

According to the latest official figures, China’s 2020 figure is ahead of the 60.4 GW of new wind capacity added globally in 2019, according to data from the Global Wind Energy Council.

China continued to build new thermal power capacity in 2020, according to the data, with 56.37 GW the highest level since 2015. The NEA did not break down the figure into gas- and coal-fired power projects.

The increases come as Beijing also announced an end to subsidies for new onshore wind power projects starting from 2021.

New solar power capacity also rebounded in 2020 to 48.2 GW after falling for two straight years, the data showed, beating an earlier industry estimate of 40 GW.

China had vowed to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy consumption to 15% by 2020 from just 6.8% in 2005, and President Xi Jinping has said this figure would rise to 25% by 2030.

China would also take its total installed wind and solar capacity to 1,200 GW, he said. By the end of 2020, China had 281.5 GW of wind generation capacity, and 253.4 GW of solar generation capacity, the NEA data showed.