China's National Energy Administration (NEA) this morning announced the country added 48.2 GW of solar last year, as it published the nation's official energy statistics.
That figure – marking a 60% rise on 2019, according to in-country analyst the Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory (AECEA) – surpasses the 30.1 GW added in 2019 and 44.3 GW witnessed a year earlier but falls short of the 2017 record of 52.8 GW, in a year in which China continued to be assailed by the spread of Covid-19.
Although the world's solar capital usually experiences an end-of-year rush of installations, the estimated December uplift of 22.3 GW – based on monthly installation data released by the China Electricity Council (CEC) – of new generation capacity is still remarkable, almost matching the 25.9 GW amassed from January to the end of November. The CEC reported China added 25.9 GW of solar to the end of November but the AECEA offered an even higher figure, of 23.3 GW, for December additions based on the NEA's quarterly numbers which indicated China added 18.7 GW of solar in the first nine months of the year and 29.5 GW in the closing quarter.
The threat of the authorities potentially removing all big-solar subsidies this year is likely to have contributed to that December stampede, together with the completion of projects delayed by the pandemic earlier in the year.
The AECEA's Frank Haugwitz pointed to the significant contribution made by utilities and other state-owned enterprises as they strive to hit renewable portfolio standards requiring them to source a minimum portion of their energy from clean sources. The state-owned bodies are also chasing a national ambition to hit peak carbon emissions no later than 2030, according to the AECEA. The analyst cited the recent announcement by the State Power Investment Corp that it had added 10.28 GW of solar in 2020, to take it to 29.61 GW of PV generation capacity. Haugwitz this morning added, half a dozen such utilities and state bodies have announced plans to add 200 GW of solar by 2025.
Wind power experienced even more astonishing returns, according to the NEA figures, with 47.1 GW of generation capacity added last month for a full-year figure of 71.7 GW, more than the last three years put together.
The near-120 GW of solar and wind power added in China last year prompted the NEA last month to moot setting a combined 120 GW target for this year, according to the AECEA, which said it is already revisiting the prediction it made this month that China would add 45-50 GW of solar in 2021. The analyst added, with around half of China's provinces having already announced their 2021-25 five-year plans, just five regions have set a combined target of adding 120 GW of solar by the end of the period. The details of the next national five-year plan are expected to be announced in March.
Last year's additions meant China hosted 250 GW of solar capacity at the end of December and 280 GW of wind farms, as part of a total power generation capacity of around 2.2 TW.
This copy and pic caption was amended on 20/01/21 to reflect the pv magazine estimate 22.3 GW of solar was added in China last month is based on monthly figures supplied by the China Electricity Council, not on NEA data, as previously indicated.
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