How is China Improving Their Clean Energy Game to Reduce CO2 Emissions?

Digital Content Market

In China, only three out of 74 cities (or 4 percent) managed to meet official minimum standards for air quality in 2013, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

China has faced a lot of criticism about the dangerously high levels of pollution that plague many of the country’s urban areas. When Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympic Summer Games, there were many efforts to reduce emissions and improve air quality prior to the games. While those efforts definitely helped, many visitors and athletes still complained about the poor air quality.

China: CO2 Emissions

China’s Five-Year Plan

Since then, China has made a conscious effort to clean up their energy game. Over the next five years, the government of China is expected to spend more than US$290 billion to address climate change issues by reducing dependency on fossil fuel power generation and CO2 emissions.

One goal in this initiative is to cut down CO2 emissions per unit by 45 percent by 2020.

With a lofty goal set, China is focusing their attention on clean energy. The development of clean energy technologies is very important for the country as it is primarily dependent on coal-based power.

Moreover, the government is investing heavily in R&D activities to help develop enhanced technology to increase power generation from clean energy sources. This is expected to propel the growth of the market during the 2013-2018 period at a CAGR of 11.6 percent.

Harnessing Clean Energy Technology

The Clean Energy Technology Market in China is divided in four segments based on technology:

Clean Energy Technology

Clean Coal Technology

China is still a large consumer of coal and coal byproducts, which also results in extremely high CO2 emissions. Therefore, China is investing heavily into clean coal technologies. Clean coal technology comes in two forms:

Supercritical (SC)

SC technology in thermal power plants employs high pressure and temperature for better efficiency and overall output. Moreover, it reduces fuel consumption and significantly reduces CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Ultra-Supercritical (USC)

USC technology operates over and above SC pressure and temperature, i.e., above 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. The high pressure results in an efficient steam cycle, which significantly reduces reagent consumption, fuel consumption, water use, and operating costs.

China added a lot of coal-fired capacity during the 2000s, with the share of SC and USC based plants increasing every year. In 2013, China’s total clean coal capacity, comprising both SC and USC power plants, amounted to 232 GW, which was much higher than in any other developing countries worldwide.

The country is expected to install number of coal-fired power plants during the forecast period because of its high dependence on coal for power generation.

Other Clean Energy Projects

Though clean coal technology will have the greatest impact for China and is therefore the most developed form of clean energy in the country, there are many projects underway for wind, solar and nuclear energies as well.

Wind Power

Currently, China has the largest cumulative installed wind power capacity worldwide. It was 91.4 GW in 2013 and is expected to reach 200 GW by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 11.8 percent. Moreover, other renewable energy installations such as solar power are also growing at a rapid pace.

Solar Power

In 2013, the country installed more than 11 GW of solar power plants, resulting in a cumulative installed capacity of 18.3 GW. The rapid growth of renewable energy in China is expected to reduce the installation of conventional power plants, thereby propelling the market for clean energy technologies in the country.

Clean Energy Technology

Improving Environmental Regulations

Of course, all of these initiatives will only be half as helpful without the implementation of updated emissions regulations. Therefore, China has introduced very stringent environmental regulations to lower the level of emissions.

For instance, the emission standard for sulfur dioxide (SO2) for power plants is 100 mg/m3, which is much lower compared with US (160 mg/m3) and European Union (200 mg/m3) standards. The regulations are expected to become even more stringent with time.

This has serious implications for conventional coal-fired power plants as the enforcement of new rules will result in the shutting down of existing coal-fired plants. The only option left for these power generators is to look for clean coal technologies and start deploying them commercially.

In addition, utilities are shifting their focus from conventional power sources to clean energy technologies for power generation, which is driving the growth of the market.