When China announced its 12th Five Year Plan last year, it made some bold goals in sustainable energy: cutting energy intensity by 16%, carbon intensity by 17% and boosting non-fossil fuel sources to 11.4% of primary fuel consumption. Nearly one year on and there has been significant progress.
China is well on the way to install 15GW of solar capacity by 2015, with 50GW planned by 2020, and the solar industry has received another vote of confidence with news that the former target has now been raised to 21 gigawatts. This is the third such increase of the goal over the last 18 months, which some analysts consider a conservative estimate. Some estimates predict that China could hit as much as 30GW within the timeframe. To put that in perspective, that would be the equivalent of installing 30 large nuclear power plants or coal-fired plants.
This is not only a positive reinforcement of China’s commitment to renewable energy, but it is also good news for the wider Green Economy. An investment on this scale will stimulate the domestic economy with opportunities for significant job creation to install large-scale projects across the country. Prior studies had already suggested annual average growth of 6,680 direct solar PV jobs per year within China between 2011 and 2020, and, with the revised trajectory, we can expect this rate to increase more.
As the world’s largest producer of solar panels, Suntech is well placed to lead this renewed solar drive. We will invest in our own expertise, but also in our supply chain, driving new innovations and economies of scale.
In China and neighboring India, even amid volatility in the global economic climate, governments are benefiting from PV investment in three clear ways – through economic stimulus, reducing environmental footprints and empowering rural communities. Investment into clean energy projects in India grew to US$10.3bn in 2011, of which US4.2bn was for grid-connected solar plants. Off-grid communities are reaping the benefit from a power source that is local, renewable and reliable, which will significantly impact on India’s rural development.
China’s example provides further impetus for long-term planning and continued investment in the solar industry. At Suntech, we see continued promise in opportunities for solar investment and development and so we must strive to ensure we not only address today’s market, but tomorrow’s and that of the next decade too.