DAVOS, Switzerland — China is taking global leadership in the clean energy sphere, while the global energy system experiences a significant transformation, said Fatih Birol, executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).
“On the supply side, China is — and will remain — the largest global investor into all of the four main clean energy sources: wind, solar, nuclear and hydro,” he told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
Underpinned by technological innovation in key areas such as solar panels and electric cars in addition to supportive policies by governments, the most important transition globally is the “parallel increase in the importance of electricity and renewable”, said Birol.
He said that while changes take place in global energy system, the Chinese energy system is “undergoing an impressive transformation”, applauding China’s leadership in many clean energy areas in the world.
The effective implementation of macroeconomic reforms and the strong ongoing efforts for efficiency will significantly cut the energy intensity of the Chinese economy. As the economy shifts to high-tech activities and services, China’s primary energy demand growth slows down to 1 percent despite healthy GDP growth, he noted.
“It is encouraging to see that in recent years we have witnessed the acceleration of energy research and development in China, putting the country into a leading position in key technologies such as solar, battery storage or direct current transmission,” he said.
However, perhaps the most promising new policy initiative in the world today is the introduction of carbon pricing in China.
“This will create an efficient market based incentive for clean energy. We agree with the Chinese approach that carbon markets should complement rather than substitute for technology specific policies,” Birol said.
Also, robust and smart electricity infrastructure is a key priority in the sustainable transition. This can enable new renewable production and new electric cars, both key components of the transition.
“China plays a leading role in these areas, representing two-thirds of all global investment in electric car charging infrastructure,” he said.
“I would like to highlight the growing and positive role that China plays in providing energy access in poor countries: around one-third of the growth of electricity supply across Africa comes from Chinese investment,” Birol said.
He cited the great progress made over the past two years, since he made his first official visit to China as executive director of the IEA.
China became one of the first IEA Association countries in 2015, followed by the signing of a three-year working plan in 2017 and the establishment of the IEA office in Beijing.