If it were in any other country, the idea of creating a new city four times the size of Manhattan powered entirely by renewable energy might sound far-fetched.

But this is China, where extraordinary projects are becoming almost the norm. Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions in Dalian this week, Shu Yinbiao, Chairman of the State Grid Corporation of China, confirmed the plans for China’s latest mega city, Xiongan New Area, to run exclusively on energy from green sources.

Announced in April, the Chinese government has billed Xiongan as a smart city and a tech hub. Expected to cover 2,000 square kilometres in the future, it will redevelop an area in Hebei, close to Beijing. The city will operate as another of the country’s special economic zones, following the success of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, and Shanghai’s Pudong New Area.

People ride amid the smog in Beijing, China, February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee - RTSYJAS
Image: REUTERS/Jason Lee

Although total electrification, including vehicles, may not be possible, the Chinese government is hoping to get as close to that goal as possible, and it intends to power Xiongan using clean energy sources.

While the timeline for construction has not yet been laid out, it’s clear there will be a number of smart innovations. And smart transportation systems will be among them.

Lifting some of Beijing’s burden

The government is hoping that eventually at least 2.5 million people and many businesses will move to the new mega city, easing congestion in Beijing, which houses 21.5 million people.

The ambitious plan could attract as much as 2.4 trillion yuan ($348 billion) of investment over the next decade, adding 0.4% to China’s economic growth, according to Morgan Stanley.

State-owned China Development Bank announced earlier in the year that it would loan 130 billion yuan ($18.9 billion) to support the development of Xiongan. And prices of existing housing in the area have recently skyrocketed as a result, according to the Economist.

China has been the renewable-energy world leader for some years, and recently announced that it is going to plough a further 2.5 trillion yuan into green power generation by 2020.

A number of cities have pledged to run totally on renewable energy, including at least 30 in the US, but none of them on the scale of Xiongan.