China-EU green energy partnership drives sustainable development across borders
  ·  2024-05-06  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency

A herd of sheep take a rest under solar panels at the Francisco Pizarro photovoltaic power plant in Caceres, Spain, on March 24, 2023 (XINHUA)

Amid lush greenery, fragrant flowers, and the gentle murmur of grazing flocks of sheep lies an endless array of photovoltaic panels, creating a mesmerizing scene of sustainable energy production at the Francisco Pizarro photovoltaic (PV) plant in southwest Spain.

The Iberdrola group, a leading Spanish multinational electric utility company, inaugurated the plant, Europe's largest, in 2022. With around 1.5 million solar panels imported from China, the plant's clean energy output is substantial, catering to the needs of 334,000 households and creating over 1,500 jobs.

As exemplified by the Spanish PV plant, China's rapid progress in the renewable energy sector has played a pivotal role in advancing the European Union's (EU) green transition.

Win-win green cooperation

The European Green Deal, launched by the European Commission in 2019, targets net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To achieve this, the EU has pledged to increase the binding renewable energy share to at least 42.5 percent by 2030. However, with the current renewable energy share at approximately 23 percent, innovation is urgently needed.

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, an association for the European solar PV sector, has warned that Europe must ramp up its solar deployment to meet the necessary targets, while WindEurope, a major wind energy association, also stressed the need for immediate action.

China's green energy equipment manufacturing industry is well-established and competitive. Chinese solar products and wind turbines would be indispensible for EU to achieve its 2030 emission reduction targets, said Qin Yan, a lead analyst at Refinitiv and researcher at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

In fact, many European countries have reaped the benefits of green energy collaboration with China in recent years.

Pedro Amaral Jorge, president of the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association, highlighted the growing cooperation between China and Portugal in the solar energy sector, as Portugal aims to install approximately 8 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2026 or 2027 and reach 22 GW by 2030.

"To achieve the objectives set for increasing installed capacity, cooperation with China must increase," Jorge told Xinhua in an interview.

In Croatia, the Chinese-built Senj Wind Farm, inaugurated in December 2021, produces about 530 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green electricity each year and reduces Croatia's carbon dioxide emissions by about 460,000 tonnes per year.

"These are projects where the benefit of cooperation with large countries like China, which have the knowledge and potential to realize such large projects, can be seen," said Mladen Plese, Croatian political analyst and Asia expert, in an interview with Xinhua.

For Zlatko Prpic, chief engineer of the Senj Wind Farm, the project, the largest of its kind in Croatia so far, represents a "miracle" and a shining example of China-Croatia cooperation.

China's Norinco International, a civil engineering company, has been the main contractor and builder of the farm.

As Croatia and the EU ramp up their transition to green and renewable energy, it presents a significant opportunity for Norinco International and other Chinese firms to demonstrate their cutting-edge technology and equipment in large-scale projects, Prpic said.

Bright prospects for cooperation

The United Nations has urged countries to accelerate the transition to an affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy system by investing in renewable energy resources, prioritizing energy efficient practices, and adopting clean energy technologies and infrastructure.

In the global drive towards a greener future, China assumes a pivotal role in facilitating the transition for both developed and developing nations, experts said.

"The future of Europe and the world hinges on them," said Plese, underlining the necessity for a united front transcending borders and political affiliations in combating climate change.

"China is developing technology and we need the cooperation of Chinese companies in that area as well," he said. "Croatia has the potential for similar green energy projects and cooperation with China is still welcome."

The 2021 report from the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU highlighted the impressive growth of China's PV cells and modules industry over the past decade. With affordable prices and significant economies of scale, Chinese enterprises emerge as the prime choice to complement the EU industrial chain, meeting the region's escalating demand for PV products.

Converting the roof of Brussels' 130-year-old Marche des Abattoirs into one adorned with solar panels from China and high-power density inverters produced by Chinese telecom giant Huawei, the Belgian renewable energy specialist ESE Group demonstrates the efficacy of these products in sustainable energy solutions.

The project involves the installation of 5,400 solar panels on the building's 10,000-square-meter steel roof. Under the Belgian regulations on the preservation of cultural heritage, the look and feel of the original building cannot be altered, so the design team at ESE customized a batch of special solar panels manufactured in China.

"It is a very good example of how to secure a listed building by using state-of-the-art architectural solutions," said Paul Thielemans, director of public relations at the Anderlecht Abattoir.

Climate change cooperation, which enjoys bright prospects, has emerged as a focal point in the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Europe.

In April, a delegation of climate envoys from the EU and member states including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark visited China and had productive discussions with their Chinese counterparts. Both sides were committed to intensifying climate dialogue and cooperation to bolster global climate governance.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz toured a China-Germany hydrogen technology cooperation project in Chongqing, southwest China, during his official visit to China in April. This underscores the extensive partnership between China and Germany in green energy, offering a glimpse into their broad collaboration.

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