Deeper system-wide transformation is key to China’s clean revolution

China’s electricity sector has been in the throes of a clean revolution over the past few years, with an almost five-fold growth in wind and solar generation since 2015. As a result, the share of coal generation has fallen by 17 percentage points, from 78% in 2000 to 61% in 2022. 

China’s clean power revolution has been relatively quick when compared with other major coal dependent Asian developing economies, where the share of coal power has risen in recent years, as in Indonesia and Viet Nam, or remained stagnant, as in Japan.

Despite rapid buildup of wind and solar, China’s power sector emissions have been steadily rising. In 2022, the country’s total power sector emissions were five times higher than in 2000 (+415%, +3,872 MtCO2) due to rising coal generation to meet soaring power demand. 

China has pledged to peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Its 14th Five-Year Plan and new market reforms seek to prioritise these efforts. Looking forward, a deeper system-wide transformation is necessary for China’s pathway towards a net-zero future. Combined with the deployment of flexibility and storage technologies, this could enable China to further expedite the phase out of its large coal fleet and shift towards a new energy system with renewables as its backbone. This will be essential for putting the world on a 1.5 degrees-aligned pathway.


Last updated: May 2023

Progress towards 1.5C power sector benchmarks