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China’s growth in clean energy matches ambition

New Worldwatch report catalogues China’s dominance in renewables and future outlook.

China is emerging from the global recession even more dominant in clean energy and with greater ambitions to be the world’s leader in this sector than previously thought, a new report from the Worldwatch Institute shows. Using a combination of technological advances, aggressive policies, and a strong financial position, China’s growth in renewable energy has far outstripped that of most developed or developing nations.

The report contains a comprehensive review of China’s progress in clean energy to date as well as its plans for future growth through 2020, and recommendations for how to improve. Worldwatch China Program Director Haibing Ma, Climate and Energy Program Director Alexander Ochs, and a team of China-based researchers led by Li Junfeng, President of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, all contributed to the study.

The report was undertaken with funding from and in partnership with the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP).

“Governments and industries around the world are now struggling to keep pace with China,” said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin.“ China is succeeding precisely where countries like the United States is failing – in implementing the ambitious policies and making the sustained investment that is needed to spur growth in clean energy. If China keeps on its current pace, it will be the undisputed global leader in clean energy within the next two years.”

“We think this report will bring an improved understanding amongst non-Chinese decision makers about the problems and opportunities China faces in the energy field,” said Li Junfeng, REEEP’s regional director for East Asia and Secretary General of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, “and it also has enhanced the capacity of China’s own energy efficiency and renewable energy experts to advise the country’s top energy decision-makers.”

Facts at a glance

Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency

  • In 2009, China surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest market for wind power, housing nearly one-third of the total installed capacity;
  • China’s newly added wind power capacity has doubled every year for the past four years. The country added 13.8 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in 2009;
  • In 2009, China’s solar photovoltaic (PV) companies held 40 percent of the global market, with most production being exported to Europe. More than 20 Chinese solar PV companies have successfully engaged in initial public offerings (IPOs), and five of these rank in the world’s top 10 in solar PV production;
  • China’s installed solar water heating capacity alone accounts for 80 percent of global installations;
  • China is the world’s leading manufacturer of solar water heaters, with domestic production capacity topping 40 million square meters in 2009. Chinese manufacturers now have a remarkable 90 percent of the global market for these products;
  • China’s small hydropower capacity is roughly equal to the small hydro installed capacity in the rest of the world combined;
  • China reduced its energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) by 15.6 percent between 2005 and 2009 and is on target to achieve its 20 percent target by 2010;
  • Between 2006 and 2008, China shut down more than 34 GW of small thermal power plants and eliminated nearly 61 million tons of obsolete iron production capacity, 44 million tons of steel production capacity, and 140 million tons of cement production capacity—saving 72 million tons of coal equivalent (tce).

Growth and Outlook

  • China’s energy consumption has doubled since 2000, although per capita energy use remains well below the world average: 2.1 tce in China versus 6.6 in developed (OECD) countries and 11.1 in the United States;
  • China’s vehicle fleet is estimated to increase by 1 million every month;
  • Coal consumption in China has doubled over the past nine years. Consumption of oil tripled;
  • China has plans to reduce its carbon emissions per unit of economic output 40–45 percent by 2020;
  • According to Chinese projections, renewables should represent 16–20 percent of total energy consumption by 2020, and 40–45 percent by 2050.

Download the report here.


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