Why can the 3:1 ratio of China/US Investing in Renewable Energy be worrisome?

New Investment in Renewable Energy in top 10 countries 2017
(source: Frankfurt School-United Nations Environment Programme Collaborating Centre report: Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018)

The title of this Apr 9 Quartz article — “For every $1 the US put into adding renewable energy last year, China put in $3” — draws our attention to the tip of an iceberg about the competition for leading the global technological innovations.

The article says that “around 26% of the country (i.e. China)’s total electricity production came from renewables, which is better than the 12% figure for the world as a whole.”

In 2017, “nearly half of the world’s new renewable energy investment of US$279.8 billion came from China, according to a report published on April 5 by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the sustainable energy finance center run by the United Nations Environment Program and the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

China’s investment in renewable energy—excluding large hydro projects—rose 30% compared with 2016, and was more than three times of that of the US, whose investment in the sector dropped 6% from 2016 to $40.5 billion last year …”

“ … More than two-thirds of China’s total investment in clean energy went into solar, adding some 53GW of capacity, an amount capable of powering more than 38 million homes. That was followed by wind, on which China spent nearly one-third of its investments. Overall, renewable energies now make up around 20% of China’s energy consumption, while coal accounts for over 60%.”

Reducing pollution, selling more renewable-related equipment to the Third World countries and etc, you can name it, are certainly important reasons for China to make heavy investments in developing renewable energy. However, the main rationale is that China is fostering a transformation of the Third World.

Have some imaginations for the futuristic buildings, including residence, garment factories as well as poultry houses, with high-efficiency solar panels in Africa and Latin America where sunshine is abundant, then electric tractors and rollers with enhanced re-chargeable batteries helping peasants on the farmlands …… Electricity, especially cheap electricity, is vital for the developing countries to upgrade their production capacity and living standard, and thereby sustain a virtuous cycle.

If the China model works, others can somehow imitate and adapt. Of course, this experiment may fail, but there are three points to note. Firstly, the China Inc (including the numerous state-owned enterprises) is working like the CEO-led corporations with emphasis on efficiency rather than democracy. Secondly, China’s rare earth reserve is good enough to support its goal. Thirdly, China Inc. probably can produce the necessary facilities at cheaper price than the United States companies (yes, there will be ‘trade war’ and criticisms of unfairness). Therefore, optimism has its ground.

How may it fail? Real wars, I guess. When two countries’ relations get worse, even neutral issues like green energy competition will have a role to play in wars. Do not forget that President Trump has added economic security theme into the concerns for national security.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

Categories: Mining & Energy

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1 reply


  1. World politics after the US ban on selling chips to ZTE | China Daily Mail

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