China covered the equivalent of one soccer field every hour with solar panels in 2015. It also installed an average of more than one wind turbine every hour of every day, according to Greenpeace statistics. And it appears to be aiming for domination of one of the world’s fastest-growing industries.
Chinese manufacturing changed the economics of renewable power. With dizzying production rates, it brought down costs and made solar generation more competitive with fossil fuel generation. And then it began installing vast fields of silicon panels and wind turbines.Many communities are considering, researching, or implementing microgrid solutions. The underlying rationale often involves complex business, operational, and economic issues. See our FREE Special Report: Understanding Microgrids. Download it now!
“It’s about setting up for manufacturing dominance,” Antung Liu of Indiana University Bloomington told National Geographic. “China sees green energy as an opportunity where it can become a manufacturing monster the way it has in clothes and toys.”
The country recently announced plans to derive 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, and to spend more than $360 billion in achieving that goal. The investment will reportedly create over 13 million jobs in the sector.
Many cite air pollution as a motivating factor in this decision. As a result of China’s rapid industrialization, the country has suffered from choking pollution. Statistics show that 1.1 million Chinese people die from illnesses related to air contamination each year. Concerns about the social and economic costs of air pollution have increased recently as parts of the country have dealt with weeks of unbearable smog.
A New York Times piece points out that the timing of the Chinese investment intersects with the Trump administration’s decreased commitment to renewable funding. It infers that green energy jobs that might have been created in the US may go instead to Chinese workers. Several industry insiders have expressed concern that by not placing priority on reducing carbon emissions with alternative generation sources, the US risks losing ground in the renewable energy race.
What are your thoughts? What priority should the US place on developing alternative energy sources?