China's New Renewable Energy Law Should Be A Wake Up Call For US

china renewable energy law photo

Photo via China Daily

China's mobilization on the clean energy front should be news to no one--its ambitious renewable standard goals (20% of total output by 2020) and rate of renewable development over the last few years have been turning heads. But the nation's new law, which will mandate utility companies to buy all available renewable power--even if it's more expensive than coal--should be a clear sign that the US is falling even further behind in the clean energy race. And that now is the ideal time to begin catching up. According to Reuters, the

new Chinese law requires power grid operators to buy all the electricity produced by renewable energy generators, in a move that will increase the proportion of energy that comes from renewable sources in coal-dependent China.
Such a mandate, as pointed out by Climate Progress, is certainly not likely in the cards for the US--just imagine the cries of 'socialism' or God-knows-what if any politician were to attempt such a law at this point. But we nonetheless need better incentives for renewable energy--there's absolutely no doubt about that. Tax incentives (like those included in the stimulus) are fine, but they're still not enough to level the playing field with the too-cheap cost of coal power (where externalities remain criminally unaccounted for).

China's aggressive renewable energy laws are positioning the world's second largest economy to become a leader in what is likely to be the major economic driver of the next decades: clean energy technology and manufacturing. If we hope to compete, and keep our own economy vital and relevant, we're going to have to do better--and the best option we have on the table right now is climate legislation.

As Joe Romm frequently says,

"China is going to eat our lunch and take our jobs on clean energy -- an industry that we largely invented -- and they are going to do it with a managed economy we don't have and don't want. Our only chance of matching them is to pass the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill.
China's government allows it to make such far-reaching decisions as the renewable energy purchasing mandate in a snap--our clunky ol' democracy means we have elected leaders debate such things for months on end. But there is indeed a free-market friendly solution to inspire innovation in the nascent clean energy sector: putting a price on carbon. Let's hope our elected leaders get the memo before we lose out on a major opportunity.

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