China to boost solar power

June 10, 2011 at 12:31 PM
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BEIJING, June 10 (UPI) -- China has doubled its solar energy target for 2015 from 5 gigawatts to 10 gigawatts, an official with the National Energy Administration said Friday.

That follows an NEA announcement Thursday that the government expects a 20 percent price drop domestically for solar power over the next five years.

As the world's biggest energy consumer, China relies on coal for more than 70 percent of its energy needs. As part of its latest five-year plan, China aims to generate 11.3 percent of its primary energy by non-fossil fuels by 2015.

Meantime, China faces an electricity shortfall this summer of as much as 40 gigawatts.

Wang Sicheng, a senior researcher on solar energy at the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top policy-making body, told Recharge News that the 2015 target was modified in response to concerns about nuclear power following Japan's Fukushima disaster.

But Wang says 10 gigawatts would be difficult to achieve without financial incentives to boost market development.

"There are still big barriers. There is no standardized feed-in tariff and grid connection is a big problem without a standard policy," he said.

Liang Zhipeng, deputy director of NEA's department of new and renewable energy, told People's Daily Online that construction of grid-connected solar-power projects will accelerate in western China, which has adequate solar energy resources.

As for the cost of solar power, NEW said it is likely to drop to less than 12 cents a kilowatt hour by 2015.

Hao Guoqiang, vice president of the Shanghai Solar Energy Research Center noted, however, that the cost of solar energy in China has been dropping about 10 to 20 percent each year.

"This is to say in 2015 the cost of supplying solar electricity is basically about the same as our electricity fees right now. That will be an era whereby solar energy is used on a large scale," he said, Channel NewsAsia reports.

China is the world's top solar-panel manufacturer by output.

Solar giants Suntech, Yingli and Hanwha SolarOne all reported higher shipments domestically in the first quarter of this year compared to 2010. Total domestic shipments are projected to reach 1 gigawatt, nearly double from last year.

"All other markets are driven by incentive. A feed-in-tariff for China is long-awaited, though with module prices coming down so rapidly, it's probably in (the government's) interest to wait until these stabilize," says Paul Combs, investor relations director at Hanwha SolarOne.

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