China's double-digit economic development has spurred massive consumption of total primary energy and electricity. The country’s primary energy demand is expected to grow by 2 percent annually over the next 20 years, and coal will continue to dominate its energy mix accounting for more than 50 percent of primary energy up to 2035.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy are two critical elements of sustainable urban development strategy and are central in China's push to reduce the carbon footprint of its economy. As part of the efforts, the government plans to increase the installation of rooftop solar PV systems from under 1 GW in 2010 to 3 GW by 2015.
As the nation's capital and a pilot city for low-carbon growth, Beijing, with a metropolitan population of about 20 million, is striving to become a model for other Chinese cities in promoting resource-efficient and environmentally-friendly urban economic growth.
With support from the World Bank, Beijing is implementing a large project to install 100 megawatts of rooftop solar PV systems in 800 primary and middle schools - the largest of such initiatives in the country so far.
The “Sunshine Schools” program is designed to achieve multiple benefits: generating clean energy for schools to meet their electricity needs, providing bluer skies and healthier air for Beijing residents, serving as a tool for raising green awareness among young students, and contributing to the country’s efforts to expand use of renewable energy and to address climate change.
Harnessing the sun for energy
The Middle School attached to Northern Jiaotong University in Beijing is one of the 800 schools that have benefited from the project.
“Solar PV systems were mounted on the rooftop of many of our school buildings. Now we are using it for campus outdoor lighting, air-conditioning, winter heating, lightings in school buildings, garage and many other things,” said Jiang Hua, a teacher at the school.
Under the program, schools are reaping financial benefits. They can use electricity generated by the solar PV system free of charge in the first six months as well as after the 15-year project period, and can even generate some additional incomes through sale of the extra electricity to the power grid during school vacation days.
“There are many benefits. It reduces consumption of fossil fuels – coal and oil. This reduces air pollution and makes the skies bluer in Beijing. It saves a lot of money on our school’s electricity bill,” Jiang Hua added.