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Green power in Asia- Part 1

By Dave Elliott

Renewable energy is expanding even faster in the east than in the west, and in this and the next post I’ve tried to review the state of play, and the prospects for the future, in some key countries (China, India, Japan, and Korea), looking at some near 100% by 2050 scenarios. I start with China and India, both of which have large renewable energy expansion programmes, though China’s is the largest .

China is taking a lead globally in renewable energy deployment. Consultants Ernst and Young’s recent study of Europe’s Low Carbon Industries confirmed the view that China was leading in most, but not all, areas. On solar PV it says ‘China and Taiwan have become leaders in the production of PV modules, with 70% of global production; their price competition is primarily responsible for Europe’s declining market share.’ And PV is increasingly being deployed within China, with 70GW expected by 2017, up from an earlier target of 20GW (now reached). Similarly for wind.It already has 114GW of wind turbine capacity installed and targets for installing 150GW, alongside 330GW of hydro, may already be out of date. As part of its existing target of obtaining 15% of its energy from non-fossil sources by 2020, it may get to 100GW of PV and 200GW of wind. And the new policy announced in November (jointly with the USA’s new target announcements), setting a target of supplying 20% of its energy from non-fossil sources (including nuclear) by 2030 and stabilising emissions by 2030 or sooner, will push that even more: the nuclear proportion will still be quite small, maybe under 5%.

Pushing the possibilities even more,a new IRENA report says that China could get 26% of its energy just from renewables by 2030, and 40% of its electricity by then, up from around 20% now, with 400GW of hydro, 500GW of wind on land, 60GW offshore and 308GW of PV solar proposed.

Looking further ahead a WWF report says it could get 80% of its electricity from renewables by 2050, at far less cost than relying on coal and enabling China’s to cut its carbon emissions from power generation by 90%, without compromising the reliability of the electric grid or slowing economic growth. And with no need for new nuclear.

The WWF report was prepared by the Energy Transition Research Institute (Entri) using an ‘hour-by-hour’ grid supply and demand model. The scenarios make use of proven technology: ‘Published resource surveys indicate that onshore wind, offshore wind, and hydropower could supply up to 2,500 GW, 200 GW, and 400 GW of capacity respectively, and additions to capacity in the model are constrained by these limits, with the exception that we limit on-shore wind to 1,500 GW, based on the recommendations of Chinese renewable energy experts. In our scenarios, we do not constrain solar PV capacity in our model, because the amount of market penetration is well below the space available on rooftops, canopies over paved lots, and western deserts.’

It also pushes the envelope for wind, by utilizing 175 GW of offshore wind and uses all of the hydro capacity estimated to be feasible in China, regardless of the environmental consequences. Butit does not have much biomass ‘because of China’s prohibition on use of agricultural lands for production of biofuels’. For balancing, it has electricity imports, which might include hydro from southeastern Asia and wind from Mongolia. Pumped hydro, battery, and compressed air storage were also all included, but were constrained to total only 100 GW. If more was added then the model could go beyond getting 80% of electricity from renewables. An earlier Greenpeace Energy [R]evolution report had suggested that renewables could supply 92 % of China’s electricity by 2050, from over 3000GW of capacity including 803GW of PV and 1,139GW of wind. The new WWF study is evidently a bit more cautious.

However, despite problems with establishing grid links for all the new capacity, the prospects look good. Interestingly, wind has overtaken nuclear as an electricity source in China, while its 20% electricity contribution from renewables overall, including hydro (large and small) at 17%, is over 10 times nuclear’s contribution. For more, see this useful info source on energy issues in China:

But there is a way to go. For a sobering view, reminding us that, at present, 68% of all the energy it consumes still comes from coal, and only 7% from hydro and 5% from new renewables, see:

Although renewables are not as developed as in China, India has been pushing them quite hard, with wind in the lead at around 22GW, although that’s on top of 39GW of existing large hydro. PV is at just over 3 GW so far. The headline project is the vast Charanka Solar Park in Gujurat. The media often says it is 600MW, but actually it’s only 224MW at present, though it’s due for expansion to 590MW soon. However, that will be dwarfed a 4GW PV project planned for installation in stages over the next 7 years across 48 sq km of salt plains in Rajasthan. But land is scarce, so big projects like this are problematic. PV ideally should be on roof-tops. Alternatively an interesting new idea is to use PV to cover areas of water e.g. irrigation canals, thus helping to reduce evaporation: there is a 1 MW array on Narmada river in Gujarat and a pontoon system, supporting 50 MW of PV panels is to be floated on a lake in the southern state of Kerala.

In addition to around 20GW of local/state projects, the 2009 Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission aimed to enable 20 GW of solar PV to be deployed by 2022, with 2GW off grid. But the PV programme has now been vastly accelerated. There’s now an ambitious 100GW by 2022 programme, with PV being seen as becoming cost effective and likely to create 1 million jobs: , and

India’s overall target was to have 55GWof renewable electricity generation by 2017, including solar, wind and biomass, up from around 32GW currently. But that may be overtaken on the way to the bold new target of 170 GW of wind, solar and biomass power projects by 2022, including a new 60GW by 2022 wind target. So things are moving at last, although some see the very rapid expansion of PV (to 100GW from 3GW) as very ambitious- a growth rate of over 60% p.a: . But then the Bridge to India lobby group/news service thinks the target should be 1000GW of PV by 2035!

While wind and PV get most attention, there is also interest in tidal power, for example in coastal Gujarat, which has green-lighted an initial 50 MW project. In addition to direct solar, on the heat side, biomass is a widely used traditional source for heating/cooking, and biogas use has been extensively developed. And some see modern biomass as a key new option for many end uses not just for heating.

Funding problems and policy changes have bedeviled the development of renewables, as have weak grids, with some saying that off-grid or mini grid community projects ought to be the focus. The new government in India certainly faces some challenges, and, see expansion of coal as well as nuclear as being vital to underpin economic growth. But it doesn’t have to be that way. For an ambitious ‘near 100%’ by 2050 renewables scenario from WWF/TERI, with over 1000GW each of wind and solar (though oddly not much PV), plus major biomass use, see: and   The 2012 Greenpeace Energy [R]evolution study had suggested that India could get 92% of its electricity from renewables. But the new WWF report says that it would be hard to get to 90% of total primary energy, with significant social changes being necessary, for example to help cut energy demand – it looks to 59% efficiency savings across the supply and demand sectors.But on the supply side it says the resource is there. For more on India’s renewables see and   Also

India’s renewables programme has had its up and downs, but so too has its nuclear programme, not least massive local opposition to new plants and long delays. Though of course nothing like the problems faced by nuclear power (or renewables) in Japan, which I will look at in my next post, along with the situation in South Korea.

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