The People’s Republic of China is one of the largest global economies today. Since it was reformed in 1978 to open itself up to the world, more than 850 million citizens were lifted above the poverty line and GDP growth has been on average 10% a year. However, poverty is still a large problem in the country, as 373 million Chinese citizens live in poverty today. The Chinese government implemented the Solar Energy for Poverty Alleviation Program (SEPAP) in 2013 as a means of helping its most poor citizens.
5 Facts About Solar Energy in China
- Progress so far: Solar energy in China has already helped many provinces. Between 2013 and 2016, 211 pilot counties reported an average per capita disposable income increase of 7-8%. Counties were chosen for the initial phase of the program primarily for their solar radiation levels and secondarily for their local economic conditions. SEPAP had the greatest impact in the eastern part of the country and the poorest counties saw the greatest increase.
- Government plans: The government is planning to install more solar energy to alleviate poverty. After its initial success, SEPAP aims to install more than 10 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity across the country. The government plans to target the poorest parts of eastern China, where solar energy had the greatest impact in the pilot counties, and it estimates that the new solar energy will benefit more than 2 million people across 35,000 villages by the end of the year.
- Goals: The goals of SEPAP’s five year plan are ambitious. Officials intend to create a “new normal,” switching economic growth and services from an investment-led approach to a consumer-led approach. From 2015 to 2020, they plan to achieve an 18% reduction in carbon intensity, 15% reduction in energy intensity and have 15% of primary energy come from renewable sources. This is all part of promoting an “ecological civilization” that focuses on green policies and technologies.
- Finances: The financial side of the program has a lot to consider. SEPAP researchers believe that quality access to electricity and employment opportunities in solar energy should be considered as future policy as well. This is because the program may cost $4.2 billion throughout its five year implementation period, and research into the proper allocation of funds for solar energy in China must be conducted in order to preserve the economic effects.
- Poverty reduction: The community solar programs and similar renewable energy generation projects across the world all seek financial benefit from energy generation in order to alleviate poverty at the county or village level. Some of the revenue from these projects also go towards public welfare projects that reduce poverty as well.
Overall, solar energy programs are not an end all be all solution to China’s poverty problem. However, the communities they are able to provide with relief show significant improvement in income. Solar energy might not fix everything, but it does open up many possibilities in China’s future.
– Kathy Wei