China overtakes Europe for installed wind power capacity

This week we have another post on the quality of China’s energy data. Our inclination is that this post by Lucy Hornby in the Financial Times is giving us the right data, and it is good news.


China breezes past EU as top wind power

China has overtaken the EU to become the world’s top region for wind power, thanks to a burst of turbine installations in the past year, a new report has found.

China installed nearly half of the 63 gigawatts of wind power added globally in 2015, the Global Wind Energy Council said on Wednesday, and now accounts for about a third of the world’s installed wind power capacity. That is almost twice the figure for the US (17 per cent) and three times that of Germany (10 per cent), the biggest by capacity, according to the council’s data.

Worldwide wind capacity rose 17 per cent to 432GW in 2015, as governments and corporations pushed towards low-carbon energy ahead of international negotiations in Paris aimed at curtailing emissions from fossil fuels.

China was not the only emerging market to show rapidly rising wind power installation. India now outranks Spain as the fourth-largest market.

“We’re seeing new markets open up across Africa, Asia and Latin America which will become the market leaders of the next decade,” said Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the council.

Beijing expects renewable energy, including wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower, to make up 30 per cent of its total energy mix by 2020. Non-fossil fuel sources will still be dwarfed by coal, with a 60 per cent share.

But as Chinese wind and solar installations have soared, so too has curtailment, or the degree to which installed capacity is not used. Part of the reason is the power grid’s continued inability to accommodate fluctuating sources of power, as well as rising overcapacity in power generation from all sources. Power utilisation hours are at their lowest since 1978 for all major generation types, according to government data for 2015.

Political issues are also a factor, industry sources complain. Local power bureaucrats are under pressure to maintain power purchases from beleaguered local coal-fired plants, as an economic slowdown softens demand from industrial customers.

Moreover, as each province meets its own quotas for low-carbon energy generation, power bureaucrats become reluctant to source electricity from wind or solar installations in neighbouring provinces. This has led to a particularly high degree of curtailment for wind farms in Inner Mongolia and other northwestern provinces, which were built with the intention of exporting power to the more industrialised Chinese heartland.

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