3. The Impact of Renewable Energy Development on Energy and CO2 Emissions in China

  1. Prof. Detlef Stolten2,3 and
  2. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Viktor Scherer4
  1. Xiliang Zhang,
  2. Tianyu Qi and
  3. Valerie Karplus

Published Online: 21 JUN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9783527673872.ch3

Transition to Renewable Energy Systems

Transition to Renewable Energy Systems

How to Cite

Zhang, X., Qi, T. and Karplus, V. (2013) The Impact of Renewable Energy Development on Energy and CO2 Emissions in China, in Transition to Renewable Energy Systems (eds D. Stolten and V. Scherer), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim, Germany. doi: 10.1002/9783527673872.ch3

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, IEF-3: Fuel Cells, Leo-Brandt-Straße, IEF-3: Fuel Cells, 52425 Jülich, Germany

  2. 3

    Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, IEK-3 Institut für En. & Klimaforschung, Wilhelm-Johnen-Str., 52428 Jülich, Germany

  3. 4

    Ruhr-Universität Bochum LS f. Energieanlagen, IB 3/126 Universitätsstr. 150 LS f. Energieanlagen, IB 3/126 44780 Bochum Germany

Author Information

  1. Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 JUN 2013
  2. Published Print: 28 MAY 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9783527332397

Online ISBN: 9783527673872



  • renewable energy;
  • economic model;
  • CO2 emissions


China has adopted targets for developing renewable electricity – wind, solar, and biomass – that would require expansion on an unprecedented scale in China and relative to existing global installations. An important question is how far this deployment will go towards achieving China's low-carbon development goals, which include a carbon intensity reduction target of 40–45% relative to 2005 and a nonfossil primary energy target of 15% by 2020. During the period 2010–2020, we find that current renewable electricity targets result in significant additional renewable energy installations and a reduction in cumulative CO2 emissions of 1.2% relative to a “No Policy” baseline. After 2020, the role of renewables is sensitive to both economic growth and technology cost assumptions. Importantly, we find that the CO2 emissions reductions due to increased renewables are offset in each year by emissions increases until 2050. By increasing the reliance on renewable energy sources in the electricity sector, fossil fuel demand in the power sector falls, resulting in lower fossil fuel prices, which in turn leads to greater demand for fossil fuels in other unconstrained sectors. The availability of low-cost renewable electricity also allows slightly higher economic growth through 2050, although CO2 emissions reductions remain modest. A policy approach that covers all sectors and allows substantial flexibility to reduce CO2 at the lowest cost – such as a cap-and-trade system – will prevent emissions leakage and ensure that targeted reductions in CO2 emissions are achieved over the long term.