China just announced it will invest massively into its renewable energy sector as the world prepares for a new energy leader.

China’s coal consumption has brought huge environmental problems. Image via Wiki Commons.

China’s economy has taken huge strides in past decades, growing from a poor, developing country, to the world’s largest economy. This new China was built on coal – the dirtiest source of energy there is. The results were horrifying, as the country is still struggling to deal with the resulting pollution. China’s smog kills 4,000 people every day, most of the coastline is heavily polluted, and few cities have a decent air quality. In the rural areas it’s even worse. But China isn’t slumbering. China’s renewable energy sector is growing faster than its fossil fuels and nuclear power capacity. In 2015, they became the world’s largest producer of photovoltaic power, at 43 GW installed capacity. They also lead the world in the production and use of wind power and smart grid technologies – and they’ve just begun.

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The Chinese National Energy Administration announced its plans to develop the energy sector. They aim to achieve 50% clean energy by 2020, harnessing wind, hydro, solar and nuclear power. Geothermal is also expected to play a part, although a smaller one at that.

The agency didn’t make many details public, but they did announce a full investment figure: $360bn from 2016 until 2020 – that’s a whopping $72 bn / year. Just so you can get an idea, global investments were $285.9 billion in 2015, and US investments were $44 billion in the same year. China is almost doubling the US in investments, which is simply amazing. It’s not even like this is an optimistic plan – many analysts expect China to surpass that figure.

“The government may exceed these targets because there are more investment opportunities in the sector as costs go down,” said Steven Han, renewable analyst with securities firm Shenyin Wanguo.

The investments are expected to create 15 million new jobs in China. But it’s not all rosy, not in the least. China is also by far the world’s biggest polluter and they have a lot of work to do if they want to ensure a proper development of their energy sector. In 2014 the carbon emissions from China made up about 28.8% of the world total Furthermore, as more and more people are expected to raise their standard of life, their energy consumption will grow dramatically. In order to cover this growth, China is also planning a number of new coal mines and coal plants. Their economy has somewhat decoupled from coal usage, but coal remains a big problem for China.