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China will take measures to fulfill the greenhouse gas-reducing pledge it has made to the United Nations regardless of the outcome of the Paris climate change conference. But it hopes "a powerful, ambitious and legally binding deal" is reached in Paris.

China's goals in its action plan, called the "Intended Nationally Determined Contribution", require it to cut its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent from the 2005 level by 2030. It will also need to increase non-fossil energy in its primary energy consumption to about 20 percent and peak its carbon emissions by 2030.

These pledges are part of the China-US joint statement on climate change during the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in Beijing.

But since clean energy accounted for less than 10 percent of the total primary energy consumption last year, a considerable number of non-fossil energy sources, including nuclear, wind and solar power, will be needed to replace the use of coal. Wind and solar power have greater potential to fill the void, although China still lags behind developed countries in terms of efficient use of energy and improvements in electricity grid despite the rapid increase in the installed capacity of solar and wind power plants in recent years.

Of all the factors, including the weak demand for electricity in some regions, the relatively high cost of generating clean energy has become a major hindrance for the nationwide promotion of new energy. And much of that can be blamed on the lack of industrial innovation. Even in some technologically advanced countries, new energy sources still cannot compete with traditional sources of energy because of their unpredictable and intermittent nature.

Preferential subsidies, technological innovations and making the use of fossil fuel more costly can play a key role in developing the clean energy industry. And although financial support could help reduce the cost of clean energy in China, such support varies according to local governments' financial conditions, which tend to be healthy in normal circumstances but become vulnerable during economic downturn.

Likewise, raising the prices of fossil fuels is not the solution to the problem, because it is unlikely to quantify the environmental costs. Hence, what the government can do is to resort to institutional reform and price marketization in order to cut the subsidies for fossil fuels and make emission reduction financially binding on enterprises and individuals.

Reliable and permanent innovations, therefore, should make the exploitation of clean energy sources efficient and cost-effective. For example, the increasingly mature use of solar power has reduced the cost of photovoltaic power generation in China by nearly 80 percent in the past decade, from about 5 yuan ($0.78) to 0.9 yuan per kilowatt-hour.

Another problem is the significant curtailment rate of wind and solar installations-the former could reach 20 percent, even 40 to 60 percent in some places, this year while the latter was about 10 percent in the first three quarters of this year. The curtailment of solar power plant installations was especially noticeable in Northwest China's Gansu province (28 percent) and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region (20 percent), where the actual market demand for electricity remains unpromising.

Nevertheless, governments at all levels are supposed to help local enterprises generate clean energy and export their products, and strike a balance between the generation of clean energy and the building of electricity grids. They should also work out long-term plans and policies that take possible economic fluctuations into consideration, so as to encourage technological innovation and reduce costs. Sufficient financial aid is also crucial in the early stages of developing new energy technologies.

These are important factors that China, as the world's largest energy consumer and producer, has to consider if it wants the ongoing energy reform to succeed.

来源:《China Daily》

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林伯强

林伯强

209篇文章 1次访问 1年前更新

美国加利福尼亚大学经济学博士(Santa Barbara)。现任闽江学院新华都商学院副院长、厦门大学中国能源经济研究中心主任、博士生导师、2008年教育部“长江学者”特聘教授,主要研究和教学方向为能源经济学。

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