Unleashing the Low Carbon Dragon? New Report Highlights China's Renewable Energy Push

wind turbines outside of urumqi china photo
Wind farm outside of Urumqi photo by Ken Driese

It may have recently officially overtaken the United States as the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gasses, but China also leads the world in another environmental category: Installed Renewable Energy Capacity. A new report from The Climate Group rounds up the steps China is taking to wean itself off the polluting energy forms which are behind both its greenhouse gas emissions and its air pollution problems.

Here are some of the highlights:
Installed Renewable Energy Capacity
China currently leads the world in installed generating capacity with the largest hydro-electric capacity and fifth largest wind capacity. Currently it generates about 7.5% of its electricity renewably and plans to double this by 2020. For point of comparison, if you include hydro power in the equation, this percentage is roughly similar to US renewable energy stats. And I guess we won’t get into messy discussion of whether Three Gorges-style projects are really environmentally friendly.

three gorges dam photo
Three Gorges Dam photo by slumber.six via flickr
Investment in Renewable Energy
China’s US$12 billion investment in renewable energy is, as a percentage of GDP is nearly even with that of the current world leader, Germany. Over the next year, China will become the world’s leading exporter of wind turbines.

Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing
China is second only to Japan in the manufacture of solar photovoltaic technology, with capacity doubling each year for the past four.

Low Carbon Transport
The Climate Group points out that China has fuel economy standards for cars which are 40% higher than those in the United States. In 2007, 21 million electric bicycles we sold and 1.64 million fuel efficient compact cars. (It’s the increase in proportion of cars to bicycles that’ll get you every time) China is also the world’s third largest producer of ethanol, with an area of land half the size of the United Kingdom under cultivation for ethanol.

Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group:

For too long, many governments, businesses and individuals have been wary of committing to action on climate change because they perceive that China – the world’s largest emitter – is doing little to address the issue. However, the reality is that China’s government is beginning to unleash a low carbon dragon which will power its future growth, development and energy security objectives.

I’m sure TreeHugger readers, as well as many industry executives, will take issue with the accuracy of some of these figures, as well as the wisdom of some of China’s policies. In a bit of perfect PR timing, the final report won’t be released until August 8th (the day the Olympics start for anyone who’s been stuck on a desert island for the past year). In the meantime take a look at the executive summary of :: China’s Clean Revolution.

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Tags: China | Energy | Renewable Energy | Solar Power | Wind Power

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