A Vast Chinese Province Just Went a Week Without Fossil Fuels

Six million people got all their electricity from solar, wind, and hydro.

A solar power station in Delingha of northwest China's Qinghai province.Zhang Hongxiang/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS

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A vast Chinese province of nearly 6 million people has generated all the power it needed for an entire week without using any fossil fuels, according to state-run Chinese media.

Qinghai, a Tibetan plateau province in the country’s northwest, derived all of its power from wind, solar, and hydro-electricity from June 17 to June 23. The experiment was part of a trial run by the government to see if the electricity grid could cope without the kind of constant, reliable energy normally provided by fossil fuels. The Chinese government claims that Qinghai’s week without fossil fuels sets a new global benchmark. In May last year, Portugal (population 10 million) ran its electricity for four consecutive days without fossil fuels.

But Qinghai had some advantages. It’s sparsely populated, compared to other Chinese provinces. As the source of China’s three mighty rivers—the Yellow, Yangtze, and Mekong—it has an unusually large number of hydro-electric facilities. Nearly 80 percent of the energy used during the test week came from hydro. But the plateau is also bathed in sun, making Qinghai a prime site for the expansion of the Chinese solar industry. China completed the world’s biggest solar farm there earlier this year.

Qinghai, atop the Tibetan plateau, is home to abundant renewable energy resources.

Li An / Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

In the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, China is forging ahead with aggressive plans to find large-scale solutions to global warming and become a world leader in green energy development—primarily by sinking massive amounts of money into solar and wind and slowing the growth of coal. China wants to create 13 million renewable energy jobs by 2020. Seven pilot programs to introduce regional cap-and-trade carbon trading will finally be stitched together into a national market later this year.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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