Can renewable energy help address poverty in China?
China is fast becoming a green energy superpower, leading the world in investment and installation of low-carbon technology. The most widely discussed drivers of this renewables surge include the desire to cut greenhouse gas emissions, boost energy security and catch up with, or overtake, industrialised countries in technological innovation.
But a recent policy initiative has highlighted another, often overlooked, motivation: tackling poverty.
China still has more than 70 million people living below the poverty line, according to official statistics, mainly in remote rural areas with limited energy access. President Xi Jinping has said he wants to get this number to zero by 2020, and since late last year government institutions have been setting out plans to meet this target.
Among them is the National Energy Administration (NEA), which is championing solar photovoltaics (PV) in particular as a tool for poverty reduction.
In April, it released a plan to install rooftop or micro solar energy systems in the poorest villages and counties across China, allowing residents to generate electricity for their own use and make money by selling surplus energy back to the grid. The scheme is expected to help 200 million households generate over 3,000 yuan each in extra income every year.