Beijing Promises Solar Subsidies To Boost Industry

BEIJING (AP) -- China's government says it will pay up to 70 percent of the price of new solar power systems in an effort to speed development of clean energy industries.

The Finance Ministry's announcement Tuesday comes as Beijing tries to reduce China's surging demand for imported oil and gas and create companies that cash in on growing global demand for clean energy technology.

The subsidies are meant to develop the solar industry as a new source of Chinese economic growth, the ministry said.

The Finance Ministry said that over the next two to three years it will pay up to 50 percent of the price of solar power systems of more than 500 megawatts -- comparable to a coal-fired power plant. It said the government will pay up to 70 percent of the cost in remote areas.

China has several large producers of solar systems based on photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. But the technology's cost means most of their production is sold abroad.

The government has set a target of generating at least 15 percent of China's power from solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2020. Officials have said such industries are growing so fast that target might be raised.

The Finance Ministry gave no indication whether the subsidies would be limited to Chinese companies or to equipment made in China. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China complained in May that European producers of wind turbines were shut out of a planned $5 billion Chinese wind energy project.

China is, along with the United States, one of the world's leading producers of greenhouse gases that scientists say trap the sun's heat and are changing the climate. Beijing is trying to improve its energy efficiency but has rejected binding limits for reducing emissions.

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