Solar, wind power gain over nuclear power in China, says German official

German official says solar and wind generation is reaching the market faster than nuclear power under Beijing's latest five-year plan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 July, 2013, 4:54am

China's thinking has shifted increasingly towards renewable energy, which is reaching the market faster than nuclear power, a German environment official has said.

"If you analyse the last 10 years, the thinking in China has shifted more and more towards renewables. I see that renewables are getting to the markets quicker than expected and nuclear energy is getting to the markets slower than expected," said Karsten Sach, deputy director general for European and international environment policy at the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. He was speaking to the South China Morning Post in Berlin.

Sach emphasised the importance of wind and solar energy: "If you read Chinese projections a decade ago on how nuclear and renewables would develop over the next decade, you would have seen nuclear far ahead of renewables. If you look at what happened and the projections of what will happen in the most recent five-year plan, you see renewables in front of nuclear.

"That's just the facts and those are sometimes ignored. I don't comment on Chinese policy. I just see [China is] doing much more on renewables than on nuclear. It's a very welcome decision, but China has to make its own decision," the German official said.

Sach said China recognised renewables would form a world market in the future. He said the country understood it could deliver energy in a socially beneficial way, without air pollution, and create jobs in remote areas.

Under the 12th five-year plan for 2011 to 2015, Beijing wants to increase hydropower capacity to 290 gigawatts, solar power capacity to 21GW, on-grid wind power capacity to 100GW and capacity for generating energy by burning biomass to 7.5GW by 2015. By then, the country hopes 20 per cent of the electricity it generates will come from renewable sources. Installed nuclear capacity is expected to reach 40GW by 2015.

In the aftermath of the disaster at Japan's Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, China's development of nuclear energy stalled.

In March, however, Xinhua cited a National Development and Reform Commission report saying 3.24GW of nuclear power would be added this year. It also quoted He Yu, chairman of the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, as saying that, with a capacity of 58GW by 2020, nuclear energy would comprise less than 4 per cent of generating capacity.

China's development of nuclear energy stands in stark contrast to Germany's plan to shut all its nuclear power plants by 2022.

Sach said his country was phasing out nuclear power because it did not believe it was part of a sustainable energy mix for the future. "That doesn't mean we impose our views on China," he said.

Meanwhile, the dispute over allegations of dumping by Chinese solar-panel makers continues. The European Commission imposed temporary tariffs averaging 11.8 per cent. This angered Beijing, which then started an investigation into the dumping of European wines.

Sach said one way to resolve the dispute was developing a larger market. "We see that we have an oversupply of solar panels on the world markets and the biggest supplier is China," he said. "So the best situation is a larger market. We are very happy to see the Chinese government is taking these issues seriously and wants to rapidly expand the [domestic] uptake of solar panels."

Solar is also growing in India and other countries.

Sach added: "Of course, that's one part of it. It is no supplement for fair markets, but things would get easier. Once one sees steady growth in a market, then the other issue of coming to a solution on a fair market is easier, compared to when it's a flat market."