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China is set to shatter its wind and solar target five years early, new report finds

<i>Future Publishing via Getty Images</i><br/>Wind farm in Nanning in south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Future Publishing via Getty Images
Wind farm in Nanning in south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

By Caolán Magee, CNN

(CNN) — China is on track to double its wind and solar energy capacity and hit its 2030 clean energy targets five years early, a new report has found.

The country is expected to produce 1,200 gigwatts of solar and wind power by 2025 if all prospective plants are built and commissioned, according to the study from the non profit Global Energy Monitor.

Solar capacity in China is now greater than the rest of the world combined. Its onshore and offshore wind capacity has doubled since 2017, and is roughly equal to the combined total of the other top seven countries, according to the report.

Dorothy Mei, project manager at Global Energy Monitor, said China’s surge in solar and wind capacity was “jaw-dropping.”

The country’s renewable energy boom is the result of a combination of incentives and regulations, according to the report. China pledged in 2020 to become carbon neutral by 2060.

But, while China may have become the global leader in renewable energy, the world’s biggest producer of planet-heating pollution is also ramping up coal production.

“China is making strides, but with coal still holding sway as the dominant power source, the country needs bolder advancements in energy storage and green technologies for a secure energy future,” Martin Weil, a researcher at Global Energy Monitor, said in a statement.

Coal power permitting in China accelerated rapidly last year when new permits reached their highest level since 2015, according to a report by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air and the Global Energy Monitor.

The amount of new coal projects permitted was equivalent to two large coal plants a week, the report found.

The country turned to coal last year in large part because of devastating heat waves and drought, the worst in six decades, which saw a surging demand for power at the same time as hydropower capacity plunged as rivers ran dry.

China’s reliance on coal poses a significant challenge to global green energy targets, but the pace of wind and solar development is a positive sign, Byford Tsang, senior policy adviser at climate think tank E3G told CNN.

“China is rapidly and successfully scaling up its deployment of renewable power and has become the largest investor into renewables globally. This is both a cause and consequence of rapidly falling costs of renewable energy as compared to coal power,” he said.

Tsang hopes that relative cheapness of renewable energy will persuade China to kick its coal habit.

“China’s ability to build and deploy homegrown, cost-competitive renewable energy at speed and scale further calls into question the economic viability of new coal projects into the future,” he added.

In 2021, the IEA said that no new coal-fired power plants can be built, and no new oil and gas be developed, if the world is to limit warming to 1.5  degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to a report from ERG.

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