China adds more solar than coal and gas for first time, as Trump slaps solar tariffs

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China installs more solar capacity than thermal capacity in 2017, while in the US Trump slaps tariffs on imported solar in effort to protect American coal.

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China added more new solar capacity than thermal capacity for the first time in 2017, and is set to drastically increase its solar installations – even as the Trump administration in the US continues its efforts to “save” the coal industry by slapping heavy penalty tariffs on solar imports.

Newly released data by China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) shows that in 2017 some 52.83GW of solar was installed in China – roughly equivalent to the total installed capacity of Australia’s entire grid.

This not only accounted for around half of all global solar installations in 2017, and a 68 per cent jump in its own solar installations, for the first time it exceeded the amount of new coal and gas (thermal) capacity in China, which amounted to 44GW for the year.

China-based analyst Frank Haugwitz, from the Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory Co, says solar in China has now reached 130GW, or 7.3 per cent of total national power generation capacity.

Overall, during 2017, China added in total 133 GW of power generation capacities including e.g. hydro 12.8 GW, thermal power 45.78 GW, and solar PV 52.83 GW.

“Basically for the first time, more clean, green, climate friendly solar PV power generation capacity was added compared to thermal power!” Haugwitz says.

There is also 163GW of wind capacity. Haugwitz predicts that by 2020, China will have installed 250GW of solar capacity.

Meanwhile, in the US, a long awaited announcement on tariffs confirmed that the Trump administration has slapped a penalty on imported solar panels. Analysts say they are intended as barriers to benefit U.S. solar panel manufacturers, but will hurt America’s renewable energy market.

“There’s widespread opposition to solar tariffs across the political and economic spectrum,” said John Rogers, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“This issue has united conservatives and liberals unlike anything else I’ve seen during Mr. Trump’s presidency. Sadly, his decision today burdens states with greater economic costs and attempts to derail clean energy progress.”
The administration has approved tariffs as high as 30% on imported solar panels, a bit lower than the 35 per cent per cent recommended last year by the US International Trade Commission. The tariffs will reduce in increments of 5 per cent and start at 15 per cent in the final year.
The first 2.5 GW of imported solar cells will be exempt from the tariff, and US producers such as First Solar and SunPower are expected to be beneficiaries, but not the whole US solar industry.
Deutsche Bank analysts said the utility-scale sector will be worse hit, and new projects could come to a halt, at least for a few years. The measures may only add around 3 per cent to the cost of residential and commercial solar.
Rogers noted that Trump has said his intention is to save jobs, “but the specifics show this decision is a job killer,” he said, suggesting that tens of thousands of jobs in the solar sector could be stamped out.
“The first year of tariffs is high enough to blunt the growth of solar energy in the U.S. and hurt domestic solar jobs, but the package is not nearly enough to give U.S. solar panel manufacturers the ill-conceived walls of protectionism they were looking for.
“Tens of thousands of jobs in the solar sector could be stamped out, and it could hurt momentum at a time when we need to massively ramp up clean energy to reduce carbon emissions.
“It’s clear this administration has no interest in reducing U.S. emissions. The states are going to have to pick up the slack by strengthening regional policies.”


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  1. Joe 3 years ago

    China leading the way forwards whilst the Trump leading America backwards…”Make America Great Again”… I’m not seeing it.

    • Radbug 3 years ago

      I’ll tell you what you do see, Joe, and that is an enormous American trade deficit with China, made possible by the reserve status, fiat American dollar, a currency status that China and Russia are actively working to do away with.

    • Terry J Wall 3 years ago

      Spot on Joe,
      On one hand we have a need to provide jobs and assist the planet survive and on the other, the 1% don’t wont to loose their hold on black fuel, the source of their wealth.

    • hydrophilia 3 years ago

      I’ve heard it said that the president represents middle-finger America, the folks who are angry and want to act out, and he seems the perfect vehicle for that impulse: do the opposite of anything that people of intelligence and learning say is sensible.

  2. neroden 3 years ago

    The tarriffs are obviously idiotic. But three points:
    (1) The FTC backed off on the original really insane proposals, probably because they were illegal, and settled on a percentage tarriff. 30%. Panel prices typically drop by 20% per year so this is a two-year delay for the US.
    (2) The only company which will benefit from this is Tesla. The other “US made” solar companies, which brought the lawsuit, are dead companies with obsolete product. Tesla is just starting to roll out its products, and will have no tarriff. Wow.

    • Andy Saunders 3 years ago

      Australian solar installers will also benefit, as supply is diverted from the US to here (and elsewhere).

    • Joel N. Weber II 3 years ago

      Does Tesla benefit?

      If Tesla ends up production constrained in manufacturing solar panels, and they’re at the top of the market anyway, will this increase their solar roof volume or profit at all?

      If they want to buy cheap solar panels made by someone else for the Megachargers in the US, does this hurt Tesla?

      • neroden 3 years ago

        We don’t yet know how long Tesla will be production-constrained on solar roofs.

        • Joel N. Weber II 3 years ago

          Are there plausible numbers for Buffalo production vs US demand for any scenario in which it could possibly turn out that GF2 could meet all US solar panel demand in 2020 or 2021?

  3. trackdaze 3 years ago

    The coal number would be gross excluding many many GWs in retirements, next few years will see the 103 coal plant planned cancellation take further effect.

  4. Nick Kemp 3 years ago

    I think the USA is a bit like Australia in that at a federal level they keep spouting regressive pro coal garbage while at a state and business level they are increasingly doing the economically sensible thing which is to use renewable energy. What I find funny here in Australia now is the sudden little back-flips from the coalition – I’m wondering when they will take a small windmill into parliament and tell everyone not to be afraid.

    I seem to remember them raging against the big battery in SA yet in an incredibly short time gone from rage to ignore to ‘wasn’t that my idea?’ They have barely uttered the words that EVs might be highly polluting to oh well yes they are definitely the future just because of a possible Aussie EV that seems to have been warmly embraced by the voters.

    • neroden 3 years ago

      “And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire
      movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they
      attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.” — Nicholas Klein, labor leader, 1914.

      They ignored solar, wind, and batteries. Then they ridiculed them. Now they are attacking them, but the economic tide has already turned. How long until they start claiming they were in favor of them all along?

  5. thxzetec 3 years ago

    Typical spin. This is *capacity* not energy. One Watt of solar capacity is about 0.2 Watt fossil fuel due to night-time, sun angle, clouds etc. yes at noon one day in June you’ll get this capacity, but not often.

    Why did China get permission to increase carbon emissions until 2030?

    • neroden 3 years ago

      Not accurate. With 5 peak-sun-hours per day (typical for my latitude in the northeastern US), one watt of solar capacity would produce similarly to about 0.2 watts of continuously-operating capacity (such as hydro)…. but Australia gets more like 7 peak-sun-hours per day, or 10 with tracking. So for a tracking solar farm in Australia, one watt of capacity is equivalent to more like 0.4 watts of continously-operating capacity.

      Do your research; don’t just spout stuff you heard some talking head say.

    • trackdaze 3 years ago

      Check your capacity factors for coal. For the ones that aren’t closing its half.

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