China takes a lot of flak when it comes to environmentalism. Some of the most striking images to come out of the country in recent years show cities smothered in smog and citizens wearing masks to protect themselves from the barely breathable air. But China is making some big strides in the realm of renewable energy, and its efforts to reduce its reliance on smog-producing coal in 2016 have now made it the top producer of solar energy on the planet.
As Reuters reports, China revealed that at the end of 2016 its photovoltaic capacity — which is energy generated by solar technologies — hit 77.42 gigawatts. The country plans to add a total of 110 gigawatts of capacity by 2020. Last year, China generated a total of 66.2 billion kilowatt-hours of energy from solar sources. It’s a record-breaking figure, and certainly worth a round of applause, but it actually only accounts for 1% of China’s total generated power.
When taking its population into account, China’s solar efforts still pale in comparison to the likes of the United States and a few other countries, but it has bigger ambitions. According to China’s National Energy Administration, the country hopes to increase its overall power generation from green sources to 20 percent by 2030.
Beijing in particular is hoping to drastically cut its reliance on coal, and the city’s mayor just promised to reduce its coal consumption by another 30 percent. The city also plans to overhaul its transportation systems and replace hundreds of thousands of “obsolete” vehicles with newer models that will further reduce air pollution.