China has a goal of meeting 15% of its energy consumption from non-fossil fuels by 2020, and the five-year plan that starts next year calls for a large expansion of hydropower for electricity generation. The World Bank, in a policy note on the Great Green Leap Forward, says China needs to do four things to hit its goal:
Develop hydropower faster. Hydropower rehabilitation and more rapid and environmentally and socially sound development could achieve the target at a lower cost because hydropower is already competitive with coal. Developing hydropower more quickly would allow for increasing the renewable energy target above the envisaged government target without increasing the incremental cost of the program.
Improve the performance of wind power rapidly. China’s experience has been less than optimal in planning wind farm, operational integration and coordination between developers and grid operators. This considerably reduced the performance of the wind program. If not addressed adequately, the high level of inefficiencies could increase the cost to the nation of the envisaged wind program, which could become prohibitive.
Promote trade. With trade, provinces could achieve their mandated targets. Renewable energy transactions would amount to about 360 terawatt-hours, 42 percent of the total of the envisaged government target. And more important, trade would reduce the discounted cost of the envisaged renewable energy target by about 56-72 percent.
Develop green electricity scheme(s). Green electricity has been well studied in China and piloted in Shanghai municipality. Deploying green electricity schemes at the national and regional levels should be considered among the options to pay for the incremental cost resulting from the development of renewable energy.
All in all, an off-to-a-good start report with some could-do-betters, particularly with wind power, where approaching a third of the power generated is off-grid, and much, much still to be done.