I recently visited the Guanting wind farm near Beijing, and what an inspirational experience it was. Located in farmland, this quiet and clean wind farm will soon generate enough electricity to supply 200,000 households in Beijing. It will save 200,000 tons of CO2 every year – and that is just one wind farm.
Imagine wind farms such as the one I visited dotted across China, replacing dirty, dangerous coal-fired power stations and mines. Imagine the improvement in the quality of life of millions of Chinese people – and imagine the contribution the country could make in the global struggle against catastrophic climate change.
This is not an empty dream. Over the last four years, the wind power market in China has grown annually by more than 100%.
We are expecting another significant jump in 2010. Five years ago, the Chinese government announced plans to install 30 Gigawatts of wind power by 2020. In fact, things have gone so well that, right now, two wind turbines are being built in China every hour. This report predicts that wind capacity could reach over 230 GW by 2020 in the most ambitious scenario. Wind is becoming a Chinese success story.
There are still major hurdles to overcome. China remains the world's biggest producer and consumer of coal. This dirty, old-fashioned form of energy is not only the single biggest contributor to climate change, its pollution also poses a daily health hazard for people across China. But, here too, things are progressing: over the last three years, more coal-fired power stations have been shut down in China than the total electricity capacity of Australia.
By choosing to cut their dependence on dirty energy sources, and by focusing on renewable energy instead, China can equip itself with a clean, secure and independent means of energy that is guaranteed for generations to come. The wind doesn’t stop blowing. Government investment in this sector would also provide the country with thousands of new jobs.
What inspires me most in all of this is that by choosing to go down the road of renewable energy, China could pride itself on having had both the foresight and the courage to become the country that led the world in the struggle against catastrophic climate change. It could pride itself on having contributed massively to guaranteeing a safe and secure future for all of our children and grandchildren.
China has all the potential to become the world's clean energy superpower, the world reference for low carbon development – to me, that is very exciting to witness.