China could soon be ‘undisputed’ clean energy leader

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A new report from the Worldwatch Institute has shown that China’s growth in the renewable energy industry, after the global financial crisis, has been greater than most developed and developing nations.

The emerging economy, which was now more dominant in the clean energy sector, was able to do this by “using a combination of technological advances, aggressive policies, and a strong financial position”, said the authors of the report.

“China is succeeding precisely where the US 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,” emphasised Worldwatch president Christopher Flavin.

Information contained in the report highlighted that China’s energy consumption has doubled since 2000, although per capita energy use remained well below the world average.

The report also stated that China’s vehicle fleet was estimated to increase by one-million every month. Coal consumption in China has doubled over the past nine years, and consumption of oil tripled.

While continuing on this growth path, China also planned to reduce its carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 40% to 45% by 2020. Thus, according to Chinese projections, renewables should represent 16% to 20% of the country’s total energy consumption by 2020, and 40% to 45% by 2050.

The report also noted that in 2009, China surpassed the US to become the world’s largest market for wind power, housing nearly one-third of the total installed capacity. The country’s newly added wind power capacity has doubled every year for the past four years, and the country added 13,8-GW of new capacity in 2009.

In 2009, China’s solar photovoltaic (PV) companies held 40% 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, and five of these ranked in the world’s top ten in solar PV production.

Meanwhile, China’s installed solar water heating capacity alone accounts for 80% of global installations. It was also the world’s leading manufacturer of solar water heaters, with domestic production capacity topping 40-million m2 in 2009. Chinese manufacturers accounted for 90% of the global market for these products.

China’s small hydropower capacity was roughly equal to the small hydro capacity installed in the rest of the world combined.

China reduced its energy intensity, or energy used per unit of gross domestic product, by 15,6% between 2005 and 2009 and was on target to achieve its 20% 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.

“Governments and industries around the world are now struggling to keep pace with China,” said Flavin.

The China renewable energy and energy efficiency status report was said to contain a comprehensive review of China’s progress in clean energy to date as well as its plans for future growth through 2020.

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