SEATTLE, Washington — In China, the government’s budget allocates 5.95 billion yuan ($905.7 million) toward renewable energy, with 3.38 billion yuan for solar energy and 2.31 billion yuan for wind energy. Out of these methods, solar power spending focuses explicitly on poverty alleviation and reduction to counter imbalanced regional development. Here are a few of the outcomes of renewable energy in China on poverty.
Renewable Energy Achievements and Goals
As an active member of the international community, China committed to transitioning to renewable energy production and consumption, peaking carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. By that same year, China forecasts one-fifth of its energy consumption to come from non-fossil fuel sources. More recently, China’s 13th Five Year Plan for Electricity (2016-20) aimed to increase total non-fossil fuel production to 35% to 39% Each of these programs and initiatives reflects growth for renewable energy in China, and the investment into non-fossil fuel energy indicates continued growth.
Photovoltaic Poverty Alleviation (PVPA)
One program unique to China is the Photovoltaic Poverty Alleviation Program which uses subsidies and incomes of photovoltaic power to alleviate poverty in rural regions. While it is common to use solar panels and photovoltaic power interchangeably, solar panels consist of many photovoltaic cells melded together, absorbing the energy more efficiently. This program seeks to account for economic inequalities and solve unbalanced energy countrywide. In 2016, if a household or person registered as impoverished and had access to a baseline amount of solar energy each year, the program would build either a 3000 or 5000 W photovoltaic system on their land or roof. These energy systems use renewable energy in China to raise people out of poverty by reducing energy costs and increasing labor.
Social Impact of PVPA
In a 2021 study, social scientists attempted to gather data and analyze measurements to indicate the success of China’s PVPA Program. The study covered three rural counties with higher poverty rates in China—Yanchi, Dingbian, and Guazhou counties. From local polling, they approximated that 90% of locals indicated that their livelihoods had improved due to the program. With more stable electricity, children’s education and adult labor hours could extend longer than pre-PVPA energy access. Photovoltaic energy doubled from 2020 to 2021 in the three regions from 15% to 30%. From local testimonies, 100% of people felt the program had zero impact on land occupation and use, benefiting personal space and property. Overall, the potential of this project enhances the possible achievements of renewable energy in China and opens up pathways to eliminating poverty in rural regions.
Challenges with PVPA
Despite the success and proven benefits of this solar power methodology, research emphasized that the marketing and public knowledge of the program are not widespread. Too few impoverished Chinese people know about the PVPA Program to access or understand its potential benefits. For those that do learn about the program, many farmers and other impoverished individuals need to cover part of the installation price and upkeep costs, causing some to abandon the program as costs mount. These adverse consequences of the program prevent necessary coverage for the many rural communities lacking access to energy. Despite the shortcoming, solutions to these problems are not impossible as China conquered the most extensive challenge of beginning the renewable energy initiative to end poverty. To increase public awareness of the program, the creation of regional marketing strategies to focus on the concerns and demographics of a given local community. The PVPA Program can enforce stricter regulations on the quality of solar panels, reducing upkeep costs and absorbing higher amounts of energy. To prevent the abandonment of solar panels, the government can implement training programs to teach proper cleaning methods of solar panels. These are just three possible improvements that can be added to the PVPA Program to improve the effectiveness of renewable energy in China and its positive effects on decreasing poverty.
Ultimately, reduction in poverty and renewable energy are tied together, as renewable energy offers a long-term energy support system, decreasing costs for impoverished households and communities. In China, renewable energy is a significant portion of government spending, and programs like the Photovoltaic Poverty Alleviation Program seek to end poverty through sustainable methods. By improving this current system and expanding renewable energy throughout the country, China will create cheaper energy and less costly living for its citizens, significantly decreasing poverty in rural regions.
– Mikey Redding