In the Chinese province of Qinghai, a landmark energy test was just completed. According to reports from China's Xinhua news agency, all 5 million citizens in the province went an entire week using nothing but renewable energy. The State Grid Corporation of China (the largest energy company in the world) ran the test using mostly hydro-electric power, as well as solar and wind to fill in the gaps.
The test was done to prove that renewable energy sources alone can provide all the power needed for modern society. State Grid's vice general manager Han Ti told Xinhua that “Clean energy is the ultimate way. We need to reduce reliance on fossil fuel, improve our energy structure, and reduce carbon emissions.”
A big move for a big polluter
Speaking of carbon emissions, this test was important for one huge reason. China is the number one carbon polluter in the world.
According to the Global Carbon project, China produced 10,357 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2016. That's about twice as much as the United States (5,414 million) and about the same as countries 2 to 5 combined (U.S., India, Russia, and Japan). It's also about the same as all the bottom 165 carbon-producing nations of the world added together!
In short, China has a big influence on the global issue of climate change. Right now, this is a bad thing, but there is a positive angle to all of this. Because if this one country decides to make sweeping green choices, it has the ability to make a huge difference in climate change quickly.
More and more, China is showing signs that it wants to do just that.
Can China really be a green leader?
When U.S. President Trump recently made the decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, a worldwide climate treaty, it concerned many people. America is not only a very powerful nation, it is also a huge polluter. But China stayed committed to the agreement, even after Trump said the US was leaving (many feared they would leave if America did). So the question is: Is the world's biggest polluter really serious about going green?
On one hand, Qinghai province has one of the smallest provincial populations in China, about 5 million people, and is mostly rural. A more populous and modern province, such as Quangdong (104 million people), would be a truer testing ground of China's green power. And so far, the test hasn't been independently verified, or confirmed. Both the energy company (State Grid) and the news agency (Xinhua) reporting it are government-controlled, so we might not be getting the whole truth (these companies can sometimes alter facts to make the government look better).
But all tests need to start somewhere. And there is no doubt that China is changing.
Their government has stated it wants to become a green leader. China is investing 2.5 trillion yuan (US$366 billion) in renewable energy by 2020. It recently opened the world's largest solar farm in Anhui province (that's it below!). And it has even announced plans to build a "forest city" in Liuzhou in northern China. The city would be full of skyscrapers covered in 40,000 carbon munching trees!
What will China's future look like? We don't really know...but it just might change the world!