China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) officially claims the title after doubling its installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2016. Thus, China consolidates its role as a world leader in renewable energy.

China’s solar potential / Solar GIS

China’s production of solar energy surged to 77.42 gigawatts at the end of the past year, after installing 34.54 gigawatts in 2016 alone. According to Reuters, the country is expected to add more than 110 gigawatts of capacity in the 2016-2020 period. Last year, China also became the world’s largest wind energy producer, with over half of the planet’s wind turbines being installed within its borders.

But China is also the world’s most populous country and all this is still just a drop in the bucket. As it stands today, solar provides just 1% of the country’s requirements. Wind is a bit more with the entire renewable sector providing a mere 11% of the country’s electricity, but things are improving. For the first time in history, CO2 emissions have decoupled from economic growth and Chinese coal consumption has recently been falling. China’s geography itself offers a great potential for renewables — especially wind, solar, and hydro.

China also seems prepared to invest the necessary money, because the country’s transition isn’t going to be cheap. The government recently announced plans to invest some 2.5 trillion yuan ($364 billion) into renewable power generation by the end of the decade.

This also puts a lot of pressure on other countries. No longer can the US say that China isn’t playing their part. Sure, they’re still the world’s largest polluter and that isn’t going to change anytime soon, but China is taking strides in the right direction, and others are following suit. Ireland voted to divest completely from fossil fuels, Sweden wants to become completely fossil-free, and the European Union is well ahead of its goals. Meanwhile, under the Trump administration, the US seems content to focus more on fossil fuels and perhaps even leave the Paris Agreement. The tables appear to have turned.

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