28 February 2011: China now leads world on wind power

By the end of 2010, China had 41.8Gw of wind capacity installed. Its installed wind capacity grew by an impressive 62% in 2010 (see REEP: Home). So it has overtaken the US, which had 40.2Gw of wind capacity installed at the end of 2010.

China has attained this leadership partly because it does not have any constraints caused by land use planning (see 10 May 2010: Can the climate wait for democracy?), partly because it manufacturers wind turbines, so can overcome the supply bottlenecks in the world’s wind industry and partly because the Chinese government is determined to increase China’s energy security and reduce its use of imported gas and oil. The desire to reduce oil imports is the main driver of China’s determination to switch to electric vehicles.

Chinese leadership on wind and electric vehicles is good news.  However, the fact that these policies are motivated by energy security rather than climate control means that there is also still a major element of bad news from China – namely coal. China has plenty of coal. In 2008, 79% of its electricity came from coal, most of which was mined in China.

Nevertheless, the Chinese government has agreed to reduce the energy-and carbon intensity of its economy. It has also agreed to develop low carbon zones. The US and EU should place priority on helping the Chinese government develop these zones (see Centre for European Reform: Making choices over China: EU-China co-operation on energy and climate).

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