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A wind turbine system generates energy in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo/Xinhua]

China has set a world record in Qinghai province, where 6 million people used nothing but clean energy for nine consecutive days - a testament to China"s commitment to a low-carbon future.

The trial lasted from June 20 to midnight on June 28 in the province. During the 216-hour trial, the province ran solely on electricity generated from wind, solar and hydropower stations.

It was the second clean energy trial for the whole province. In June last year, it relied solely on renewable energy for seven consecutive days, beating Portugal"s 107-hour clean energy effort in May 2016.

According to China State Grid"s Qinghai branch, electricity consumption during the nine days totaled 1.76 billion kilowatt-hours, equivalent to coal use of 800,000 metric tons, and cut emissions of 1.44 million tons of carbon dioxide.

China is spearheading the global fight against climate change by enforcing strong environmental policies. According to the commitment it made in the Paris Agreement, it will cut carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Qinghai"s efforts represent a nationwide shift toward low-carbon energy use. During the nine-day period, hydropower stations supplied around 80 percent of the electricity, with the rest produced by solar and wind power facilities, said Qi Taiyuan, general manager of State Grid Qinghai Electric Co.

Around 3 percent of the power generated during the period was from coal-fired plants and was transmitted to neighboring Gansu province, Qi said. A minimal amount of coal-fired power plants were kept running because they were needed to stabilize the grid in case of fluctuations and to avoid damaging electrical infrastructure, he said.

"During the nine days, we achieved zero emissions related to power use in Qinghai," said Xu Yourui, director of the company"s coordination center.

Encompassing the headwaters of three major rivers - the Yellow, Yangtze and Lancang - Qinghai has abundant hydroelectric and solar-power facilities.

"Environmental protection is critical in Qinghai because of the river sources. There are strong reasons for China to cut emissions in Qinghai, and to promote clean energy and maximize the efficiency of clean energy facilities," Qi said.

Shift to low carbon

China has taken significant steps to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, upgrade its energy structure and improve air quality.

Its enthusiasm for clean energy is pushing the global transition toward a low-carbon future. The country plans to invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($370 billion) in renewable energy by 2020, creating more than 13 million jobs, according to the National Energy Administration.

China"s total installed renewable energy capacity reached 650 million kilowatts in 2017, up 14 percent from 2016. Clean energy generated 1.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity last year, accounting for 26.4 percent of the country"s total.

In Qinghai, more than 85 percent of the installed power capacity comes from non-fossil fuels.

"Qinghai started developing its new-energy industry in 2009, and the rapid expansion has served people well while attaining sustainable growth," said Zhang Hongping, a Qinghai grid official.

Stable power supplies were extended to about half a million people over the last eight years. People living in remote high-altitude areas did not have access to electricity until three years ago.

Madoi county, located at the headwaters of the Yellow River, 4,500 meters above sea level, requires heating 11 months out of the year, and temperatures are low even in June. A campaign was launched in 2017 to replace coal heaters with electric ones in Madoi, where 10,000 people live.

Yumtan Gyatso, a bank official in Madoi, said his bank once consumed 300 tons of coal for heating every year, but now its heaters are powered by electricity, a cleaner alternative.

For Qinghai"s energy guzzlers, such as China Aluminum Corp"s Qinghai subsidiary, the emissions reduction is impressive. The aluminum producer uses a whopping 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity every day to produce 1,000 tons of aluminum products.

During the nine-day clean energy trial, it cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5,700 tonnes, said Xing Zhanxiong, general manager of the company.

"The significance of the nine-day green energy operation is not only in the emission figures. It signals the direction we should be heading, which is green and low-emissions," Xing said.

In February, the National Energy Administration approved six provincial-level regions - Qinghai, Zhejiang, Sichuan, Tibet, Gansu and the Ningxia Hui autonomous region - to spearhead clean energy development.

Qinghai plans to expand its solar and wind capacity to 20 million kilowatts by 2020.

Xinhua