The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris has reached an agreement regarding climate change. This is an important milestone that leads the way for mankinds development of green, low-carbon, and sustainable energy. A transition to low-carbon energy is a necessary development. Many countries have now established low-carbon energy development targets, paying special attention to non-fossil energy sources.

China has increasingly realized unsustainable growth based on excessive consumption of resources and environment degradation during its years of rapid economic development. The most fundamental way to achieve sustainable development and to address climate change is to forgo further resource-intensive high-carbon development and to embark on a journey toward an ecological civilization through green and low-carbon energy development. Therefore, China has established nation-wide strategic goals for low-carbon development in its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the United Nations in June 2015. One of the stated goals is that Chinas non-fossil energy will account for 20% of the primary energy sources by 2030.

Non-fossil energy includes renewable energies and nuclear energy. Of the renewable energy sources, relatively well-developed hydropower sources have the potential for further development, and in Chinas primary energy structure, hydropowers contribution could reach nearly 10%.

Non-hydro renewable energy sources include solar, wind, biomass, ocean, and geothermal energy. In China and throughout the world, non-hydro renewable energy resources are rich, free of fundamental technical obstacles, and have been rapidly developing in recent years.

Renewable energy sources have a low carbon content and are bound to make a huge contribution toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the energy structure.

The critical problems that need to be solved to enable large-scale commercial utilization of renewable energy resources are as follows:

  • further reductions in the entire environmental life cycle impact of renewable energies, such as a reduction in the emissions produced during the equipment manufacture phase;
  • further reductions in the cost of renewable energies through technological innovation, therefore making renewable energy sources economically competitive in the market;
  • improving the grid-connectivity rate for intermittent power sources, such as wind and solar, by developing smart grids and high-capacity (physical and chemical) storage technologies;
  • developing distributed energy, micro-grid and non-grid technologies and the direct use of peak electricity (for the desalination of sea water or hydrogen production by the electrolysis of water).

Nuclear energy is a low-carbon, high energy density, and sustainable energy source. The Fukushima accident in Japan has impacted Chinese and international nuclear energy development. However, after careful analysis, China and several other countries are determined to continue developing nuclear power.

Currently, Chinas nuclear power accounts for approximately 2% of its total domestic electricity generation capacity. Following various lessons and experiences, nuclear safety technology and management levels have been further improved. The “safe, stable, and scalable development of nuclear power” is a sensible choice for the country. A transition from current nuclear-fission power plants to future nuclear-fusion power plants is inevitable.

In future, the Earth will rely on non-fossil energy. This is an important strategic assessment. According to a Chinese Academy of Engineerings report, in China, non-fossil energy will account for 15% of the primary energy in 2020 and rise to more than 20% by 2030 and 40%–45% by 2050. The proportion of non-fossil energy will eventually exceed that of fossil energy, which will be a historical mark for the energy revolution in China.

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Published on 15/05/17
Submitted on 15/05/17

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