China is developing a grid better for coal than renewables: report

China won’t meet its carbon and energy intensity targets unless dramatic changes to its electricity grid are applied, says a study by U.S.-based Energy Transition Research Institute.

The report, two years in the making, says China’s grid is its “Achilles’ heel,” according to lead author and Energy Transition Research Institute Research Director William Chandler in an interview with Climate Wire.

While newer and in many ways more technologically advanced than the U.S. grid, China’s system is nevertheless being built to perpetuate the use of coal and large hydropower projects, he said.

“The most important thing in the world for meeting carbon goals is what China does in its overall energy policy in the next 10 years. And the big hole in meeting those targets is in the electric power system.”

Beijing is preparing to run pilot carbon trading schemes beginning in 2013 in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Hubei and Guangdong, major cities with a combined population of 250 million people.

The government’s goal is to introduce a national trading scheme by 2015, two years after the seven pilot programs are scheduled to be in place.

China may still decide to withhold its offset credits to comply with its own climate targets after 2015, limiting supply to the EU, the world’s biggest market, said Pradeep Perera, an official at the Asia Development Bank, International Business Times reported in January.

In September last year, a group of countries including China, India and Brazil said extending the UN carbon market beyond 2012 depended on developed nations setting greenhouse-gas cuts for the period after this year.

Because of the China’s size and rate of economic growth, the outcome of its pilot carbon trading plan is “one of the most important questions of environmental policy of our time,” shows a Stockholm Environment Institute study published last month.

The world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide, China accounts for almost 25% of global carbon pollution and about 50% of the annual increase of energy-related emissions forecast for the next 20 years.

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