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China Gets Over a Quarter of its Electricity from Clean Energy Sources

China generates an amazing 26 percent of its electricity from carbon-free energy sources.

As Hu Jintao arrived in Washington, D.C., for his first state visit, China's Electricity Council released some new numbers this week, including the eyebrow-raising revelation that the nation gets more than one quarter of its electricity from "clean" energy sources. Big caveat here: This includes nuclear power, which is why I'm enclosing "clean" in quotation marks. Opinions differ on whether nuclear should be lumped in with clean and renewable resources like wind, geothermal, and solar. It also includes massive hydroelectric projects like the Three Gorges Dam, which aren't exactly the favorites of many environmentalists.

Still, it's an impressive figure no matter how you slice it. A full 26.53 percent of China's electricity comes from carbon-free energy sources—this in a country once notorious for building a new coal plant every week (which may have been happening three years ago, but isn't today).


BusinessGreen breaks down the Chinese numbers:

Hydropower accounted for 213.4GW, up from 196GW at the end of 2009, while wind power capacity almost doubled to 31.07GW. Nuclear power accounted for 10.82GW, up from 9GW in the previous year.

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For comparison, the United States, in 2009, derived 30.8 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources, which was mostly (more than 20 percent) nuclear, with hydro and other renewables accounting for just about 10 percent.

Overall, Chinese electricity consumption in the country increased by nearly 15 percent.

Still, the state-backed Xinhua news agency reported that the increase in clean energy capacity allowed energy authorities to close down fossil fuel plants, resulting in a net reduction in fossil fuel generated electricity by about 11 Gigawatts.

A commenter on BusinessGreen makes an interesting point, however, regarding the legitimacy of this data.

I think that the Chinese figures for clean energy put on their government papers are worth as much as the toilet paper I use to wipe myself clean, since they are reviewed by the Chinese Communist Party Propaganda Bureau before release. I will start to trust those figures once the Chinese allow independent international control on those statements by a LLoyds or Bureau Veritas.

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International verification, particularly of greenhouse gas emissions, is one of the hottest points of contention in the U.N. climate negotiations. China hasn't shown much interest in letting independent auditors "look under the hood" and verify their claims.

Photo: Wind power plants in Xinjiang, China (cc) by 林 慕尧 / Chris Lim on Wikimedia Commons

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