December 29, 2009

China amends renewables law – is the U.S. far behind?

China’s legislature approved a plan Saturday that requires utilities to buy all the power produced by generators of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

According to the state news agency Xinhua, the amendment to the nation’s renewable energy law also imposes fines on electricity companies that do not buy power supplied by these renewable energy producers.

China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and its economy is heavily reliant on coal, which provides two-thirds of China’s total energy.

But Chinese officials have taken several steps to boost renewable energy output and expand subsidies.

This includes a target set in 2007 of meeting 15 percent of the country's energy needs with renewables by 2020, although the level has already reached nine percent, according to Xinhua.

Last month China offered a first-time pledge to begin curbing its greenhouse gas output, vowing to reduce emissions intensity – that is, emissions relative to GDP – by up to 45 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.

According to Xinhua, a third of the country’s wind energy capacity cannot be well transferred into the power grid, and the new law hence requires grid companies to “improve transmitting technologies and enhance grid capability to absorb more power produced by renewable energy generators.”

On Capitol Hill, a broad – and bipartisan – energy bill that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved in June includes several steps to boost renewable power.

It would create a national renewable electricity standard, which requires power companies to supply escalating amounts of electricity from wind, solar, biomass and other sources. The bill also aims to overhaul transmission planning and strengthens the hand of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the siting of power lines.  Other aspects of the energy bill include wider oil-and-gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and new programs to increase energy efficiency in manufacturing and buildings.

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