Image credit: martijn, used under Creative Commons license.
China has made noises about feed-in tariffs for large scale solar before, and the nation is making huge investments in offshore wind energy. Now China is unveiling a new feed-in tariff for solar that, it says, should help increase solar power capacity ten-fold in the next five years.The Globe and Mail reports that China's government has announced a new feed-in tariff for solar that will guarantee solar developers a payment of 1 yuan (US$0.15) per kilowatt-hour that their projects feed into the grid. Unsurprisingly, solar companies in China have welcomed the news with open arms:
"We strongly believe that China will quickly evolve into one of the largest and most important solar markets in the world," said Liao Mingsheng, chief executive of Yingli, one of China's largest vertically integrated solar panel manufacturers.
The Globe and Mail suggestion, however, that the move is in contrast to cutbacks in solar subsidies elsewhere may be a little disingenuous. While true that some countries have indeed slashed their feed-in tariffs (the UK just reviewed its support of large-scale solar), others, like Germany, have renewed their commitment to long-term support of the solar industry. (Albeit with the long-term reductions in subsidies that were part of the plan all along.)
Doubtless the free market evangelists will scoff at China's state support, but in a world where coal pays for little of its actual environmental or social impact, a little Government intervention can go a long way to rebalancing a grossly uneven playing field. If solar prices continue their ferocious cost reductions, we may indeed see such subsidies become unnecessary. But I suspect, when the dust settles, we'll find that some economies are way out in front on delivering truly clean, renewable power.
When it comes to renewables versus fossil fuels, it's time to choose sides.
More on Solar and Renewable Energy in China
China Plans for Large Solar Feed-In Tariff
China Invests in 30GW of Offshore Wind
Almost Everyone Has a Solar Water Heater in Dezhou, China