China Is #1 In Renewable Energy Investment, US #2, Japan #3 (CHART)

April 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Clean Power
whos winning the clean energy race

Published on April 5th, 2014
by Guest Contributor


With record-breaking solar installations in the US, and solar actually coming in as the #2 source of new electricity capacity in 2013, you might think the US was the #1 market in the world for renewable energy investment. Of course, if you follow how much renewable energy China is installing… or if you just read the headline above, you know otherwise. Here are more details from Climate Central:

U.S. Lags Behind China in Renewables Investments (via Climate Central)

By Bobby Magill Follow @bobbymagill Don’t let all those Texas wind farms and massive installations of solar panels in California fool you. The U.S. is not the world leader in clean energy investment. China is. For the second year, an annual Pew Charitable…

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  • There’s nothing to complain about in this news. China has four times the population of the US. It’s growing rapidly, and unlike the US has little potential for reducing emissions from energy saving. It is also still building coal plants. China’s renewable investments still have to grow a lot before it can cap coal and start reducing it.
    The total leaves out transportation, where China is doing much better than the USA: it already has high-speed electric trains, electric buses deployed by the hundreds, and electric bikes by the millions. I would expect electric cars to grow faster as well, since China has very little domestic oil. Mass car ownership of ICE cars would send the oil price through the roof, and won’t be allowed.

    • “Mass car ownership of ICE cars would send the oil price through the roof, and won’t be allowed.” Isn’t China already a larger vehicle market than the US by annual unit sales totals?

      • I think China is selling a lot more cars. The number on the road hasn’t yet caught up but apparently soon will.

  • dear mister Zachary Shahan

    start a Television network for green energy.
    The world needs a green CNN and you are fit to do that.
    I want to see you on the tele next to the BMW I3 EV. hehe.

    and organize the green race worldwide winner States.
    with red carpet and green Oscars. lots of ideas
    What do you say about this????
    to get more people interested.

    • hmm, that would be fun.

    AND THE WINNER IS?????? between states.
    an every year event.
    there must be a marketing show event in this worldwide.
    with a green Edison.

  • Chinese are smart. admit, Installing more Solar and Wind Power will give them a
    cheap energy lead for industrial production.
    When US will still be shaling and fracking and burning their dollars in fossil investments, China gets there power from cheap wind and Solar. to produce more Solar. smart.

    • Whoa! Hold back that capslock key. Puppy is acting up on you.

  • The real test per is per head of population. or as a percentage of oil equivalent units replaced.. for instance we in the UK have about one sixth of the US population, we use per capita less than half of the energy of the US. So US sums invested are really not that great for a devolved nation.

  • It would have been interesting to see charts of investments per capita and investments as a percentage of GDP too.
    There is no surprise that the largest countries has the largest investments or that rich countries have more money to on things like this.
    But it would surely be nice with a race where the US try to keep up with China. Maybe get Japan and India into that race too.

    • If I get time in the coming month, i might create some. Putting it on my list.

  • China is building generation of all sorts, including coal at a very rapid pace. In a developed economy like the US, adding renewables largely means that older generators must be curtailed or closed. That is a tougher sell -abandoing plants that are not yet at the end of their lifespans means someone has to write off their residual value. The fraction of new build that is wind/solar has been very high. China is still an “all of the above” mode.

    • China has said that they will cap coal use starting next year. The cap has been set at 2011 levels which would mean a significant decrease in coal usage. They’ve also hinted that they may not be able to hit the mark next year but it might take them until 2017 to hit peak coal.

      China has closed down over 9,000 inefficient coal plants (that’s a somewhat old number now). They’re under a lot of pressure to clean up the air, but it appears that electricity generation is playing a small role in that problem. The majority of pollution/smog seems to come from hundreds of thousands of coal furnaces and cars.

      I think China is somewhat in an ‘all of the above’ mode but have the brakes partially on when it comes to coal and they’re standing on the accelerator for wind and solar.

      Actually I get the impression that the Chinese government takes climate change more seriously than do most other country’s governments. They’re stuck between doing more and the need to keep their economy going which requires more energy.

  • The US is ahead on renewable investment per person, but then it is a much richer country. Going by percentage of nominal GDP China is way ahead, investing 2.7 times as much as the United States.

    • Has the falling price of renewables influenced this at all? The dollar amount invested cannot actually represent the watt hours of production capacity installed when we are also being told about dropping installation prices and improved production capabilities.

      • A dollar invested in renewables now will result in more electricity being generated than the same amount of money invested a year ago and the amount of electricity generated compared to five years ago is quite a bit larger. The cheaper that renewables get the more money will be invested in them as investment shifts from fossil fuel generating capacity to renewable capacity since they are now the cheapest option in many locations or all locations if environmental costs are included. In Australia renewables are competing with established fossil fuel generators while in China renewables are generally seen as adding to increasing demand for generation, but the fact is they also compete with established fossil fuel capacity. In many places in China coal power is quite expensive with coal either being carried long distance by rail or shipped in from overseas and China has shown itself not to be shy when it comes to closing down coal plants that can’t cut the mustard economically. Up until now the alternative to an inefficient coal plant in China has generally been a more efficient modern coal plant, but renewables are now a valid competitior in many regions. As renewable capacity expands new coal plant construction willslow and then stop (hopefully within the next few years) and then renewables will start to replace the existing base of Chinese coal capacity. I only hope the process will be a rapid one and not dragged out over many decades.

    • There’s also the issue that China is investing a ton in expanding its electricity capacity as a whole.

      • Yes, demand for grid electricity has been pretty flat in the US for years and looks set to fall to me. Meanwhile, per capita, China is generating almost three quarters as much electricity as Italy and more than half as much as Japan. So to get to Italy’s level they could stop building fossil fuel capacity and get 25-30% of their electricity from new renewables, which is a pretty trivial task. I get a third of my grid electricity from wind and solar, a figure that is still increasing. Or to get up to Japan’s level they could hold fossil fuel capacity where it is and get around 45% of their electricity from new renewables, which is something that is clearly possible to do, particularly given the low cost of point of use solar in China. In reality China’s coal plant construction won’t stop on a dime and they will probably finish the construction of the nuclear plants they have started, but I am sure that it won’t be very long before the majority of new generating capacity in China is renewable.

        • I think China is going to pick up the pace with nuclear in the short term. At some point they’ll have to do the math.

          • In a few years solar is really going to be pushing down the price of Chinese electricity during the day while wind power will be doing the same whenever winds are up. We’ve seen existing paid off reactors struggling with low electricity prices in Europe and the US so to me the question is how quickly will China close down it’s nuclear construction program? But right now any increase in Chinese nuclear capacity is putting pressure on coal and that ain’t a bad thing. It’s only bad if those mischievous atoms don’t stay where they’re supposed to.

          • China has a very major corruption problem. I wonder if they’ve been able to keep it away from their nuclear program or if they have some substandard parts/labor lurking in one or more of their beasts. South Korea has been bitten by mordita.

            That’s the joker that could be hidden in the deck.

            But back to economics. We’re only about two years into cheap solar. China seems to have just caught on last year. It may take a year or two more before the price of solar and wind are fully understood. At this point nuclear is a pretty small portion of China’s electricity production. China may decide that in order to get coal shut down as soon as possible that they will continue to build nuclear, just at a slower rate. It’s not like China is hurting for money.

            Wind is what is really growing in China. Solar is certainly on the move but a smaller percent.

          • With regards to corruption I say remember Brakels’s Axiom:

            If someone thinks [nation] is following a master plan, it is only
            because that person does not speak [national language]. A lack of
            ability that prevents them from understanding that [nation] is just as
            disorganized as everywhere else.

            So while there is of course corruption going on, we just have to hope it is mostly of the skim money for decade variety rather than the skimp on quality and then quickly disappear sort. But it is of course impossible to know.

            And China is on the verge of a great solar kablooie, similar to what’s happening in Australia, driven in part by the negative return Chinese people receive on their savings. I’ll write about it as soon as I decide on a suitable descriptive phrase. I’m not sure if I should go with solar plague or great solar kablooie.

          • Just looking at something James Wimberly wrote: Apparently China will be have two to three gigawatts of nuclear coming online a year at their current buildout rate. This year’s 14 gigawatt solar target will roughly match that in terms of electricity generated while this year new wind capacity will generate roughly twice that amount of electricity.

          • China is going to have a little break in the action. They started a lot in the three years before Fukushima went squirrely.

            Then they started none for a year and fewer for the following two years. I read something about a lot more start ups in 2014 but don’t recall the number.

            That 2011 break should show up around 2016-17.

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