Fossil Fuels Now Account for Less Than Half of China’s Power Capacity

Workers install solar panels on the Hongqiao train station in Shanghai.

Workers install solar panels on the Hongqiao train station in Shanghai. Jiri Rezac / JRE / The Climate Group via Flickr

Thanks to a growing buildout of renewable power, fossil fuels now account for less than half of China’s total installed power capacity, state media said Monday.

In 2021, China set a goal for renewable capacity — including wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear power — to exceed fossil fuel capacity by 2025, a target that it has hit two years ahead of schedule, Reuters reports. Renewable sources, as China defines them, now make up 50.9 percent of the country’s power capacity.

China’s renewable capacity has grown rapidly in recent years due partly to investments in wind and solar megaprojects in the country’s sparsely populated west that export power to manufacturing centers in the east.

Importantly, power capacity refers to the maximum amount of electricity a power plant can produce under ideal conditions. It’s a measure of how much electricity a solar farm can generate at noon on a cloudless day, or how much a coal plant can produce when operating at full blast. Because fossil fuel plants operate closer to their capacity than solar and wind plants do, the newly release figures may obscure how much electricity China is actually drawing from renewables.

Last year, coal ultimately accounted for more than 56 percent of power consumption in China, while renewables — including nuclear power — accounted for less than 26 percent, according to official figures.


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