China amends renewables law – is the U.S. far behind?

But Chinese officials have taken several steps to boost renewable energy output and expand subsidies.

This includes a target set in 2007 of meeting 15 percent of the country's energy needs with renewables by 2020, although the level has already reached nine percent, according to Xinhua.

Last month China offered a first-time pledge to begin curbing its greenhouse gas output, vowing to reduce emissions intensity – that is, emissions relative to GDP – by up to 45 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.

According to Xinhua, a third of the country’s wind energy capacity cannot be well transferred into the power grid, and the new law hence requires grid companies to “improve transmitting technologies and enhance grid capability to absorb more power produced by renewable energy generators.”

On Capitol Hill, a broad – and bipartisan – energy bill that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved in June includes several steps to boost renewable power.

It would create a national renewable electricity standard, which requires power companies to supply escalating amounts of electricity from wind, solar, biomass and other sources. The bill also aims to overhaul transmission planning and strengthens the hand of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the siting of power lines.

Democratic leaders have been planning to package the bill with legislation that imposes mandatory curbs on greenhouse gas emissions. But backers of climate legislation face several challenges as they try and corral 60 votes.

Some centrist Democrats -- such as Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Byron Dorgan (N.D.), who are both up for reelection next year – have called for instead taking up the energy bill on its own.

“I think it moves us forward in all the objectives we want to reach, which is lowering our carbon output and our greenhouse gas emissions, I think it helps us lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and I think that it is a great jobs bill,” said Lincoln, who faces a tough reelection fight, in the Capitol Wednesday.

Other aspects of the energy bill include wider oil-and-gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and new programs to increase energy efficiency in manufacturing and buildings.