Chinese PV boost An ambitious five-year-plan sees China forging ahead with clean energy.

China is expanding its position as glob­al leader in electricity generation from renewables: this year it plans to install 49,000 megawatts (MW) of new capac­ity. The National Energy Administration (NEA) announced in January that 21,000 MW will come from hydropower, 18,000 MW from wind power and 10,000 MW from solar energy. According to the NEA, capacity amounted to 280,000 MW in hydropower, 75,000 MW in wind pow­er and 6,000 MW in solar power at the end of 2012. The National People's Con­gress approved these plans in March. The planned increase means that Chi­na is likely to overtake Germany, which has been the largest photovoltaic mar­ket until now. The reduction of the feed-in tariff in Germany has had a marked effect on market development: figures from the German Solar Industry Asso­ciation (BSW) show that demand in the last quarter of 2012 was about 65 percent lower than in the same quarter of the pre­vious year. "The significant cut in solar funding in the summer of 2012 is clearly having an effect," explains BSW spokes­person Eva Bretschneider. The German environment ministry expects capacity to grow by only 3,500 to 4,500 MW in 2013.

In terms of total installed photovolta­ic capacity, Germany will probably con­tinue to lead the field for the time being. When it cmes to hydropower and wind power, however, China is already ahead in both expansion and installed capacity. According to the NEA, the main aim of the world's most populous country is to achieve energy security for its growing economy, industrialisation and urbani­sation without fiirther increasing its de­pendence on fossil fuels. China, which produces and uses more electricity than any other country in the world, is also the largest emitter of carbon dioxide and is battling enormous environmen­tal problems.

Beijing thinks big

Under the five-year plan for renewables, by 2015 the country will have more than 100,000 MW in wind power, more than 21,000 MW in solar power, 13 MW in biomass and 290,000 MW in hydropow­er. Geothermal energy, wave and tidal power are also on the expansion agenda. The aim is to meet 9.5 percent of Chi­na's energy needs from renewables by the end of 2015. "No other newly industri­alised country is investing so much in clean energy," says Corinne Abele, an ex­pert on China at Germany Trade & In­vest. "China is also setting a pioneering example in its response to the demands on its electricity grid, with Beijing build­ing the most modern transmission sys­tems possible."

Ultra-high voltage direct-current (UHV) transmission systems, which can carry electricity at 1,000 kilovolts over thousands of kilometres with very little loss, are already in use. By 2015 the State Grid Corporation of China plans to in­vest around EUR 193 billion in a smart grid system, the backbone of which will be formed by six UHV transmission lines traversing the gigantic country. China has now set its sights on joining the In­ternational Renewable Energy Agen­cy (IRENA), as was announced by Liu Qi, deputy director of the NEA, at the IRENA assembly in Abu Dhabi in Janu­ary. At present 100 countries and the EU are members of the Agency, which was founded in 2009. Adnan Amin, director general of IRENA, described China's de­cision as "a milestone in international ef­forts to double the share of renewable en­ergy worldwide by 2030".

China is also an important candidate for the international club of states making the switch to renewables that Germany's environment minister. Christian Demo­crat Peter Altmaier, wants to estabhsh. A first step was taken during the IRENA as­sembly in Abu Dhabi where Altmaier and Liu Qi signed an agreement to cooperate on the expansion of renewables. The Ger­man environment ministry reported that the memorandum of understanding com­mits the two countries to working togeth­er on "energy policy, the issue of system integration, environmental impacts and model projects".