China’s new Five-Year Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2060

9 March 2021

China's installed capacity of nuclear power will reach 70 GWe, according to the draft outline of the 14th five-year plan (2021-2025) for national economic and social development and the long-range objectives through the year 2035, Xinhua reported on 5 March. According to a government work report on the plan, submitted to parliament for consideration, China will draw up an action plan for carbon emissions to peak by 2030 and aims to become carbon neutral by 2060.

China's industrial structure and energy mix will be improved. While promoting the clean and efficient use of coal, we will make a major push to develop new energy sources, and take active and well-ordered steps to develop nuclear energy on the basis of ensuring its safe use, Premier Li Keqiang said when introducing the report. China had intended to bring its total nuclear installed capacity to 58 GWe by 2020 did not meet the target due to a freeze on construction in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster.

"Developing nuclear power is an important option to achieve the vision of carbon neutrality as it is a competitive new non-fossil energy, which can reduce the emissions of pollutants and slow the greenhouse effect," Wang Dezhong, a professor specialising in nuclear-related technology at the School of Mechanical Engineering of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, told the Global Times. To achieve the goals of peaking carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, requires more reliance on low-carbon alternatives such as nuclear power, Wang said.

Wang believes the government report may also indicate a possible increase in China’s inland NPPs. "Building an inland nuclear power station is technically feasible. An inland nuclear power station will use cyclical water-cooling towers, instead of draining away or pumping water from rivers," Wang said. China froze NPP construction after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 but restarted work on several projects in eastern coastal areas in 2015. Although the resumption of the construction of the inland nuclear power projects has yet to be officially announced, at least 10 provinces have already proposed developing their own nuclear power industries.

Liu Wei, a deputy to the National People's Congress and a senior official at China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), told the Global Times that his proposal during this year's two sessions is to suggest that the government formulate a national scheme on nuclear development and promote the mass construction of independent third-generation nuclear power units. At present, CNNC has 22 nuclear power units in operation, with an installed capacity of 20.23 GWe.

According to the Government Work Report, China will continue to improve the quality of the environment, and generally eliminate heavy air pollution and contaminated water bodies in cities. Energy consumption per unit of GDP and carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP will be reduced by 13.5% and 18%, respectively. China will introduce special policies providing financial support for green and low-carbon development and devise equipment to support the reduction of carbon emissions.

The plan calls for an increase in wind and solar power generation and promotion of electricity generation from waste with the aim of having non-fossil fuels meet around 20% of total energy consumption by 2025. Other measures include accelerating unconventional oil and gas resource development during the five-year period, including tapping deep-sea offshore China and deep onshore reservoirs that require more sophisticated equipment and drilling technology.

The plan said China will expand infrastructure spending especially on natural gas by 2025, including building long-distance domestic trunk lines to transport gas from Russia’s Siberia, as well as a second project to pipe gas from southwestern Sichuan to the east.

State Grid Corporation of China, a Fortune Global 500 firm, has become the first centrally owned Chinese enterprise to release a plan for achieving carbon emission peak and carbon neutrality goals, envisioning 50% of the electricity transmitted on its vast network from clean energy sources by 2025.

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