Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – In the first four months of 2023, China’s solar power installations increased by an incredible 36.6 percent year over year, to a total of 440 gigawatts.And no wonder. China’s major power firms’ investments in solar energy skyrocketed by 156.3% over those four months in the previous year, to $10.6 billion. New wind installations were also impressive, up 12.2 percent year over year, to a total of 380 gigawatts. This, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Vincent Shaw at PV magazine believes that China will be the first country to install 100 gigawatts of solar in a single year, during 2023.
In the first quarter of ’23, non-fossil fuel sources of power (including nuclear) rose to 50.5%, for the first time exceeding half of the country’s power. This advance was made possible by the addition of all that new wind and solar this winter. Fitch expects fossil fuels’ share in the capacity mix to decrease to 48% by the end of this year.
The growth of wind and solar in China is so rapid that it may reach its goal to have 18% of its power come from those two sources by 2025 much earlier than forecast. Fitch expects those two renewables to provide 17% of the country’s power by the end of this year.
In contrast, the United States only has 135.7 gigawatts of solar and 141.3 of wind power. So China has nearly 3 times as much solar and two-and-a-half times as much wind power as the US. China is beating the US in the renewables sector very badly, and since wind, solar, hydro and battery are the future of energy, this precociousness gives Beijing a significant advantage over Washington. China dominates the solar panel industry, for instance, because the US was busy mining dirty coal and calling climate change a ‘Chinese hoax.’ The Chinese Communist Party politburo must have had a good chuckle at that one. The US is way behind in the energy race and doesn’t even know it is in a race.
In China in 2012, clean energy resources already fueled 14.5 percent of electricity consumption, according to CGTN. By the end of last year, that number had risen to 25.9%, about the same as in the United States. Chinese wind and solar power production is enough to provide electricity to every home in this country of 1.4 billion people.
China is much more coal-dependent than the US, though, and emits more carbon dioxide. Still, the percentage of Chinese electricity that comes from coal plants has fallen from 68.5% in 2012 to less than half today. China says its emissions will stop growing by 2030 and then fall to zero by 2060. US emissions are also still growing, but after Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act some observers think that growth will cease as early as 2025. The US goal is more ambitious than China’s, to get to zero carbon by 2050.
My own guess is that the Chinese Communist Party knows very well that coal is antiquated and its share of power production will fall rapidly in the coming years, but does not want to create a panic among the country’s 6 million workers in the coal industry.