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China’s Green-Energy Revolution

China generates most of its electricity by burning fossil fuels, just as every rising economic power has done since the Industrial Revolution. But to focus on this risks overlooking a notable trend: China’s system of power generation is turning green far more quickly than any other system of comparable size on the planet.

SYDNEY – China generates most of its electricity by burning fossil fuels, just as every rising economic power has done since the Industrial Revolution. But to focus on this single fact risks overlooking a notable trend. The Chinese system of power generation is turning green – far more quickly than any other system of comparable size on the planet.

This trend is visible in three areas. The first is electricity generation. According to data released by the China Electricity Council, the amount of power that China generated from fossil fuels in 2014 decreased by 0.7% year on year, the first drop in recent memory. Meanwhile, power generation from non-fossil-fuel sources increased by 19%.

Remarkably, nuclear energy played only a small role in this change. Electricity generated by strictly green sources – water, wind, and solar – increased by 20%, with the most dramatic growth occurring in solar power generation, which rose a staggering 175%. Solar power also surpassed nuclear in terms of new energy produced, providing an extra 17.43 terawatt-hours last year, compared to 14.70 terawatt-hours from nuclear sources. And, for the third consecutive year, China generated more electricity from wind than from nuclear energy. Given this, the argument that China will be dependent on nuclear power plants for non-carbon sources of electricity appears to have little merit.

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