Over the past few years, China has emerged as a global leader in clean energy, topping the world in production of compact fluorescent light bulbs, solar water heaters, solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, and wind turbines. The remarkable rise of China’s clean energy sector reflects a strong and growing commitment by the government to diversify its energy economy, reduce environmental problems, and stave off massive increases in energy imports. Around the world, governments and industries now find themselves struggling to keep pace with the new pacesetter in global clean energy development.
Chinese efforts to develop renewable energy technologies have accelerated in recent years as the government has recognized energy as a strategic sector. China has adopted a host of new policies and regulations aimed at encouraging energy efficiency and expanding renewable energy deployment. Taking lessons from its own experience as well as the experiences of countries around the world, China has built its clean energy sector in synergy with its unique economic system and institutions of governance. At a time when many countries still struggle with the aftermath of a devastating financial crisis, the Chinese government has used its strong financial position to direct tens of billions of dollars into clean energy— increasing the lead that Chinese companies have in many sectors.
Among other initiatives, the Chinese government has taken strong action to promote renewable energy, establish national energy conservation targets, and delegate energysaving responsibilities to regions. Key legislative actions include the national Renewable Energy Law, which entered into force in January 2006, the national Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for Renewable Energy, launched in September 2007, and the Medium and Long-Term Energy Conservation Plan, launched in November 2004.
Although per capita energy use in China remains below the international average, it is growing very rapidly, spurred recently by the infrastructure-intensive government stimulus program launched in late 2008. Even with efficiency advances, demand for energy is expected to continue to rise in the coming decades. Chinese energy consumption is currently dominated by coal, and the major energy-consuming sector is industry. Improving the efficiency of energy use and enhancing energy conservation will be critical to ease energy supply constraints, boost energy security, reduce environmental pollution, “green” the economy, and tackle the climate challenge.