China Emerges as World Leader in Solar Power
According to projections, China will triple its solar capacity by the year 2020, which will bring the country’s installed solar power up to more than 140 gigawatts.
Last year, China surpassed Germany as the world’s largest solar power market. The country added over 15 gigawatts of new solar capacity, bringing it to 43.2 gigawatts out of the world’s current 200.
China plans to add 15 to 20 gigawatts of solar power every year. The U.S. and Germany are not far behind. With over 135,000 installations within the first six months of 2015, nearly 784,000 American homes and businesses went solar, and the rate is increasing. Research shows that the United States is now installing one solar system every four minutes. It is estimated that the world’s total capacity will reach 320 gigawatts by the end of 2016.
When put in context, China’s solar capacity is only a very small fraction of its total energy use, as China also burns more coal than any other nation. However, China’s leaders are determined to meet targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases under the Paris climate accord. They are also anxious to reduce the amount of pollution found in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, where the air is virtually impossible to breathe.
While this progressive initiative is a step in the right direction for the environment, many Chinese workers are losing their job — and those losses are expected to continue.Approximately 1.8 million coal and steel workers will be laid off this year. The government promises to invest more than $15 billion in job placement for displaced workers; however, some of China’s big cities are completely dependent on the coal economy, and the layoffs are expected to cause severe social unrest. Already, coal miners in Anyuan are gathering by the hundreds to protest pay cuts and layoffs.