China’s commitments to cut its greenhouse gas emissions and increase the share of non-fossil fuels as part of its primary energy consumption are not only possible, but also economically and technically feasible, says a new WWF report. According to the report, China has the technical potential to generate 84 per cent of its electricity needs through renewable sources in 2050 – and at a much lower cost than continuing to rely on coal.
WWF’s China’s Future Generation 2.0, employs analysis from the Energy Transition Research Institute (Entri), modeling hour-by-hour power supply and demand from the present through 2050. Incorporating assumptions of only modest technology innovation, the report finds that China could meet key international commitments it has made ahead of climate talks in Paris -- to peak overall carbon emissions and generate 20 per cent of its primary energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. The report also shows that coal could be eliminated from China’s power mix by 2050 or even earlier.
“China has an important opportunity here at the UN climate negotiations to further marshal support toward a strong agreement. Our data shows that the targets China has set are not only ambitious, but entirely realistic,” said Samantha Smith, Leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. “This year we’re expecting China’s energy-related CO2 emissions to flatline or even to decrease – continuing and accelerating these encouraging trends are critical to the world’s future. Today’s report shows that this future is within reach, and at a fraction of the cost of the country’s current path.”
In addition to ramping up development of renewable power sources, the world’s most populous and energy-hungry nation can simultaneously pursue aggressive energy efficiency initiatives to reduce electricity demand. These efficiencies, including bold standards for appliances and industrial equipment, can reduce annual power consumption in 2050 by almost half.
“This report shows us what is possible. To achieve this highly efficient and renewable powered future, political will is the critical ingredient,” said Lo Sze Ping, CEO of WWF-China. “The sooner the Chinese government releases clear energy transition signals, the more we can assure sustainable growth of China’s economy.”
Updating a 2014 report, the new analysis from WWF and Entri finds that arriving at more than 80 per cent renewable electricity generation is more feasible and more beneficial to China’s economic interests than ever before. Future Generation 2.0 offers new, additional recommendations, calling on China’s leaders to:
- Enact new stringent standards for air conditioners, water heaters, motors, and lighting;
- Abandon plans for coal gasification; and
- Accelerate power sector reforms to optimize electricity dispatch and set electricity prices for peak load management.