According to one of China's top cabinet members, over 11% of the nation's power is now generated by renewable sources. Yet despite that figure – as well as heavy investment in renewable energy technology and pointed efforts to corner the market for solar panels – China is still betting on the continued dominance of fossil fuels.
Today, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao delivered the opening remarks at this year's World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. In his speech, he touted a list of impressive steps his nation has made towards cleaning up its energy sector: China has "phased out backwards facilities", reduced carbon emissions by "184 million tons on an annual basis", and "shut down small coal plants" that totaled 80 GW of capacity – which, Wen noted, was the "equivalent to the energy consumption of a small European country". There were energy conservation initiatives that impacted industrial sectors, as well as those targeted towards business and the citizenry.
"Although china's per capita energy consumption is much lower than OECD countries, we encourage citizens to live in a low-carbon way," he said. "We require that room temps be no lower than 26 C in summer, 20 in winter."
Most striking of all, Wen claimed that the share of clean energy in the country's mix had jumped to 11.4% from 8.3% in 2010. Most of that comes from newly completed hydroelectric plants, but Wen also said that a combined 50 GW of wind and solar power came online in 2011 alone. And yet, China still expects fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to power his nation's economy for the foreseeable future.
"Fossil fuels will continue to dominate energy consumption for a long time to come," Wen said, so "we need to follow a low-carbon approach to consuming" hydrocarbons. By which he means embracing energy efficiency and conservation measures.
"We must give top priority to conservation and efficiency," Wen said. "To save energy is indispensable to easing tension between supply and demand. Even energy-rich OECD countries need to promote a conservation-minded way of life." He said that we needn't compromise quality of life, but "rely on scientific advancements and technology to improve efficiency to drive social and economic development with minimum energy consumption."