China's Emissions to Peak this Year Amid Massive Clean Energy Growth
In an unexpected yet groundbreaking development, China, the globe's largest carbon emitter, is on the verge of a significant shift. Projections now indicate that China's carbon emissions might reach their zenith this year, with a potential downward trajectory from 2024. This revelation stems from a comprehensive analysis of governmental data coupled with commercial insights, as per a report by Carbon Brief.
2023 witnessed a spike in China's emissions, attributed to the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions earlier in January. This led to an estimated 4.7% increase in emissions in the third quarter compared to the previous year. Yet, this surge in energy demand has been paralleled by an aggressive push towards clean energy, surpassing even Beijing's ambitious goals.
China achieved its annual targets for solar and wind energy capacity by September. The solar sector, in particular, saw a dramatic expansion, adding a staggering 210GW in 2023 alone. This growth doubles the total solar capacity of the U.S. market and quadruples China's own additions from 2020. The nation's total solar power is projected to surpass 600GW by year's end, with solar-panel production capability expected to breach the 1TW mark by 2025.
Wind energy has also seen remarkable progress, with about 70GW added this year, surpassing the entire power generation capacity of the UK. Furthermore, China has augmented its hydropower capacity by 29GW since early 2022, marking a 7% increase.
In the realm of battery technology, China is making significant strides. The nation's battery output is set to reach 800GWh in 2023, sufficient to power 20 million electric vehicles (EVs). This marks a substantial jump from the 550 GWh recorded in 2022. With this surge, EV production exceeded eight million units in the past 12 months, accounting for over 30% of all vehicles manufactured in China.
Lauri Myllyvirta, a lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and the report's author claimed the wave of "record additions" is guaranteed to push China's fossil-fuel electricity generation and CO2 emissions into decline in 2024.
"Moreover, with the power sector being China's second-largest emitter and with other major sectors, such as cement and steel, already seeing CO2 falling, this drop in power-sector emissions could drive a sustained, structural emissions decline for the country as a whole," he added. "This is because - for the first time - the rate of low-carbon energy expansion is now sufficient not only to meet but exceed the average annual increase in China's demand for electricity overall.
"If this pace is maintained, or accelerated, it would mean that China's electricity generation from fossil fuels would enter a period of structural decline - which would also be a first."
This analysis aligns with earlier reports, like the one from Global Energy Monitor, which noted a remarkable surge in China's solar and wind capacity. Despite this progress, challenges persist. The report acknowledges ongoing coal plant constructions, with 136GW of capacity under construction as of June and an additional 99GW in the planning stages. Since then, another 25GW has been permitted, despite President Xi Jinping's commitment to curtail new coal-fired power projects. To adhere to the forecasted peak of 1,370GW in coal power capacity by 2030, China must either immediately cease new coal power permits or accelerate the closure of existing and planned plants.
In a broader context, the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2023 echoes these findings. It predicts a potential peak in global energy-related emissions starting next year. The agency envisions a transformed global energy landscape by the decade's end, with clean energy poised to provide up to 50% of the worldwide power mix by 2030, marking a phenomenal rise in clean technology deployment.