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Chinese Premier Announces Clean Energy Push

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has restated the government’s plans to aggressively build clean energy capacity throughout the country in an effort to reduce air pollution.

Li’s announcement, which he made on the central government’s website, comes as major Chinese cities have been suffering from catastrophic levels of smog. Li’s statement laid out plans to build new solar, wind, nuclear and hydropower plants.

China is already one of the world’s largest markets for clean energy. It installed a record 12 gigawatts of solar in 2013, with an aim of boosting growth to 14 gigawatts this year. China also led the world in installed wind capacity last year, with a record 16 gigawatts coming online.

Until now, China has been a smaller player in the nuclear industry, but it has ambitious plans to triple its capacity by 2020. It currently has 20 operating nuclear power plants, with 28 more under construction. Connecting enormous volumes of new clean energy capacity will require the construction of high-voltage transmission lines. According to Bloomberg, several Chinese nuclear companies saw their stock prices rise after Li’s comments.

China also leads the world in greenhouse gas emissions and, aside from its contribution to climate change, the central government is concerned about the effects of pollution spewing from coal-fired power plants.

A 2013 study blamed air pollution for reducing life expectancy by five years for the average person in some parts of the country. Pollution is also a drag on growth, with some studies projecting that it costs the equivalent of between 3.5% and 9% of GDP.

Last month, Li declared “war on pollution” and outlined the steps the government will take to rein in smog. It won’t be easy; China still burns through as much coal as the rest of the world combined.

By Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com

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