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China’s renewable energy revolution

“Announces plan to invest $361 billion on renewables and create 13 million jobs by 2020.

“Announces plan to invest $361 billion on renewables and create 13 million jobs by 2020.” Wow! Could that be Alberta’s newly elected United Conservative Party government talking? After all, wasn’t the UCP’s election platform, under Jason Kenney’s leadership, all about jobs, jobs, jobs?

As much as it was nice to visualize that for a moment or two, no, that heady quote is not from the UCP. Too bad, because all those jobs sure sounded enticing. Instead, the quote is from a World Resources Institute graphic entitled Climate Action in China. Hmmm, 13 million jobs. Makes you wonder if China is eating our lunch when it comes to the renewable energy industry.

It seems to me that sunny and windy Alberta is missing out on an enormous economic opportunity. But, given our election results, the majority of voting Albertans must be okay with that. Well, you might think it’s okay; but, I don’t think it’s okay. (Do you hear an echo from last month’s blistering lecture by US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff?)

Getting back to China, her renewable energy plan really started to accelerate in 2016. To better understand how this happened, here’s another quote, this time from Maggie Yuan Yao’s article entitled China is Leading the Clean Energy Revolution (Jan. 28, 2019), as found on the Clean Energy Finance Forum produced by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment: “In 2016, China released its 13th Five-Year Plan. It emphasizes developing an ‘ecological civilization’ in which renewable energy development plays a major role.”

An ecological civilization, you say? How refreshingly forward thinking is that? But, hey, that’s not all. The same article tells us even more exciting green news: “In the big picture, one of the key drivers behind the Chinese government’s ambitious goal to develop clean energy is air pollution. The shift from coal to renewable energy is part of China’s environmental strategy that includes carbon markets, energy efficiency, and green financing.”

To contrast this, back here in Alberta, the UCP’s climate change policy includes a full audit, and a possible repeal, of the NDP’s Energy Efficiency Alberta program, which promotes “the use of cutting-edge technology to save energy and reduce emissions, while improving quality of life.” What a shame a repeal of this program would be, as it very much eases the financial burden of energy-efficient upgrades and installations for both businesses and consumers.

China’s solar objectives have already been more than met in advance of 2020 targets. In 2016, China was the largest solar and wind investor in the world, as well as the leading manufacturer of solar PVs (photovoltaics), wind turbines, and electric vehicles. As China moves forward with global domination of the renewable energy sector, perhaps she’ll throw us a few bones to make us believe that life is still good here in Alberta.

Did you know that China has oil and gas holdings all around the world, including investments in our Alberta oil sands? China definitely has energy security in her sights. But, what are we doing about our own energy security needs in this cold country of ours? My fear is that unless Alberta gets serious when it comes to a future-focused renewable energy program, we might find ourselves, one day, taking instructions from across the Pacific.

As our new UCP government focuses on bitumen-carrying pipelines, let’s hope Albertans and their economy doesn’t go the inevitable way of the dinosaurs. If adaption is paramount to evolutionary success, then China is showing us how to do it. Taking a page out of China’s renewable energy playbook—now that’s in our best interest.

For more in your best interest, follow Sheelagh @sheesays or visit