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China boosts solar goal for 2015 as it fights pollution

Sydney Morning Herald, 19 March 2015

China will push this year to install almost 2 1/2 times as much solar capacity as the US added in 2014 in a race to clear its increasingly polluted air. The world's biggest emitter of carbon aims to install as much as 17.8 gigawatts of solar projects in 2015, the National Energy Administration said Wednesday on its website. The NEA previously estimated 15 gigawatts would be added this year, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified, citing confidentiality requirements.

The more ambitious goal may attract as much as 21 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) of additional investment to solar projects compared with the earlier plan, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates.

The shares of Chinese solar companies rose after the new target was earlier reported by news website and noted by Credit Suisse Securities USA analysts led by Patrick Jobin. Hareon Solar Technology gained as much as 4.5 per cent in Shanghai. Jiangsu Akcome Science & Technology rose by its 10 per cent daily limit in Shenzhen, while Hong Kong-listed Comtec Solar Systems Group rose as much as 9.7 per cent.

"This will benefit equipment suppliers that focus on the domestic market," Yin Lei, a Shenzhen-based analyst at China Merchants Securities, said by phone, noting he also expects the new target to spur installations of smaller solar projects the nation has been promoting since 2013.

Solar push

China added as much as 12 gigawatts of solar power in 2014, narrowly missing the target it had set for the year, according to BNEF. The US added 7.3 gigawatts of solar capacity for the year, the London-based researcher's data shows.

"This reflects China's stronger efforts to reduce emissions," said Peng Peng, a Beijing-based analyst from the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

China is using more power from the sun as part of its plans to cap emissions in the next decade and a half. President Xi Jinping has pledged an "iron hand" to protect the environment after a November pact with US President Barack Obama to increase China's share of non-fossil fuel in its total energy use to 20 per cent by 2030.

The nation of almost 1.4 billion people is targeting a more than tripling of its solar power capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission said in November.

Emissions fall

China's emissions of carbon dioxide fell last year for the first time in more than a decade, helping stall global production of climate-warming gases.

Total carbon emissions in the world's second-biggest economy dropped 2 per cent in 2014 from the previous year, the first decline since 2001, according to a BNEF estimate based on preliminary energy demand data from China's National Bureau of Statistics.

The NEA has asked local departments in 26 regions of the country to submit plans by the end of April detailing new solar projects for this year, it said today.

China's northern province of Hebei, the region of the nation with the worst air pollution, has been pegged to receive the most new solar projects this year with allocations of 1.2 gigawatts of installations, the NEA says. Hebei is followed by the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Qinghai and Ningxia, which have all been given one gigawatt, according to the document.