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The Chinese government needs to become a clean energy supermajor

China is turning to its state-owned coal power companies to helm the next stage of the country’s renewables push, as the sector becomes less attractive to other investors.

Photo: David Gray/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Private firms have helped the top-polluting nation become the world’s largest generator of clean energy. Now, as China chases a target to zero out carbon emissions by 2060, and with subsidies for renewables investments ending, government-controlled utilities need to take the lead.

The five biggest state-backed power firms have announced plans to develop about 305 gigawatts of new wind and solar capacity in the next five years, according to BloombergNEF, almost twice the amount it estimates the US will install over the same period. At peak generation, the total being added would be about enough to power the whole of Japan. 

“Carbon neutrality is a central responsibility of state-owned enterprises,” Li Peng, director of strategic management at one of the companies, State Power Investment Corp., told the Clean Energy Expo in Beijing last month. “We must provide society with green power. Our industry must empower others to reduce carbon and reach carbon neutrality.”

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