China has been chipping away at its carbon emissions at a pretty good clip in recent years, with 2015 statistics indicating the nation will reach, and possibly exceed, its 2020 goals. To support that effort, the country plans to add up to 20 gigawatts of solar power each year for the next five, which will add up to more than three times the nation’s current capacity. Nur Bekri, head of the National Energy Administration, announced the decision Monday, which solidifies China’s plan to foster a new era of clean energy for the country that emits more carbon dioxide than any other on Earth.
The mostly coal-dependent nation has seen a huge increase in solar power capacity in recent years as new installations have boosted 2011 figures by nearly 13-fold. Despite the growth, as of the end of last year, solar power only accounts for around three percent of China’s electricity. Earlier this year, the government announced an aggressive plan to close some 1,000 coal mines as a key step toward the nation’s goal of reducing coal consumption by 60 percent by 2020. As coal declines, the country’s booming renewables market is primed to take up the slack.
With its commitment to new solar power installations over the next five years, China is aiming for a target capacity as high as 143 gigawatts, which is more than three times the current figures. At the end of 2015, the country had 43.2 installed gigawatts, which helped them steal the title from Germany as the country with the most installed solar capacity. Incidentally, China is also the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of solar panels, so a domestic demand supports this shift toward renewable energy, and will help bolster the nation’s economy as the coal industry shrinks.