China Leading in Energy Transition

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

May 19, 2024

China, as a signatory to both the Kyoto and Paris climate accords, has taken significant strides in its energy transition efforts. Notably, the nation is on track to surpass its 2030 energy transition target by five years. This achievement underscores China’s commitment to combatting climate change and positioning itself as a global leader in green technologies. 

As the world grapples with the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and embrace sustainable energy solutions, China’s advancements offer valuable insights into the feasibility of achieving a greener future. 

China’s journey towards energy transition, its potential to lead in green products like new electricity storage solutions, and the transferability of its green strategy to other nations, could be a turnkey event in our fight against climate change.

China’s Progress in Energy Transition

Over the past few decades, China’s swift economic expansion has led to a surge in energy requirements, primarily fulfilled by fossil fuels. Despite coal still being responsible for over 60% of electricity production and the ongoing construction of new coal power plants, China has recognized the environmental and economic hazards of depending on traditional energy sources.

In response, China has embarked on an ambitious path towards net zero. This journey has been marked by policy changes, investments in renewable energy infrastructure, and technological advancements, leading to significant strides in diversifying China’s energy portfolio.

China’s energy transition is in full swing, with grand plans for extensive renewable energy infrastructure projects. By 2025, China aims to double its capacity and generate 1,200 GW of energy through wind and solar power. As of the first quarter of 2023, China’s utility-scale solar capacity has reached an impressive 228 GW, surpassing the combined capacity of the rest of the world.

Furthermore, the San Francisco-based NGO, Global Energy Monitor, has identified solar farms under construction in the country that could add another 379 GW of solar energy to China’s renewable capacity. This is triple the capacity of the US and nearly double that of Europe.

China’s progress in wind capacity is equally impressive: its combined onshore and offshore capacity now exceeds 310 GW, which is double its capacity in 2017 and roughly equivalent to the combined capacity of the next top seven countries. With new projects underway in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Gansu, and coastal areas, China is set to add another 371 GW before 2025, increasing the global wind fleet by nearly half. As Dorothy Mei, a project manager at Global Energy Monitor, puts it, “This new data provides unrivaled granularity about China’s jaw-dropping surge in solar and wind capacity.”

Leadership in Green Products

China’s commitment to energy transition extends beyond domestic efforts to encompass leadership in green products and technologies. In recent years, the nation has emerged as a hub for innovation in areas such as electric vehicles (EVs), renewable energy infrastructure and new electricity storage solutions.

The Chinese energy storage industry experienced rapid growth in recent years, with accumulated installed capacity soaring from 32.3 GW in 2019 to 59.4 GW in 2022, and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 18.9% from 2023 to 2032. The Chinese government is increasingly focused on what it calls new-type energy storage systems (NTESS). This category encompasses a range of electricity storage methods, such as electrochemical systems (e.g., batteries), compressed air energy storage, flywheel systems, and super-capacitors. The country in partnership with National Energy Administration (NEA), aims for the installation of 30 GW of NTESS by 2025, and also reduce the cost of NTESS by 30% by 2025. These advancements are part of China’s broader strategy to achieve peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.

Transferability of China’s Green Strategy

The question arises: can China’s green strategy be transferred to other nations? While China’s experience offers valuable lessons and best practices, it’s essential to recognize that each country faces unique challenges and opportunities in their transition to a sustainable energy future. However, several aspects of China’s approach can serve as guiding principles for other nations:

– Policy leadership: China’s success in energy transition is underpinned by strong government policies and regulations that incentivize investment in renewable energy and promote sustainable practices. Other countries can emulate this approach by implementing supportive policy frameworks tailored to their specific context.

– Investment in infrastructure: China’s substantial investments in renewable energy infrastructure have been instrumental in driving the adoption of green technologies. Similarly, other nations can prioritize infrastructure development to accelerate their energy transition efforts.

– Collaboration and knowledge-sharing: China actively collaborates with international partners and participates in knowledge-sharing initiatives to promote global cooperation on climate change mitigation. By fostering collaboration and sharing expertise, other nations can benefit from China’s experience and accelerate their transition to a low-carbon economy.

As the world continues to confront the challenges of climate change, embracing China’s green strategy and fostering international cooperation will be critical in realizing a sustainable and prosperous future for all.

Photo Caption: Solar panels in China