Much is being made of China’s world-leading investment in “clean, green” energy, especially wind and solar power, though much of this is being done to create another export industry to the nations obsessed with climate change.
When measured in percentage terms, China’s growth in renewable energy from 2000 through 2010 certainly sounds impressive—up 1,545 percent!! Yes, China built a lot of new coal plants, too, but its coal-generated energy only increased 132 percent.
But when measured in terms of absolute energy output the numbers game being played here becomes apparent. When viewed in terms of additional total energy output by source, measured in the common unit of million tons of oil equivalent (MTOE), we see that energy from non-hydro renewable sources (mainly wind and solar) grew by only 11.4 MTOE from 2000 to 2010, while new energy supply from coal grew 976.4 MTOE—85 times as much new energy came from non-hydro renewables. New hydro power did much better than wind and solar power (up 112.8 MTOE), but much of that increase came from the massive Three Gorges dam that the global environmental community deplores. But in the absence of Three Gorges, China might well have built an additional 50 to 100 coal-fired plants.
Net Growth in New Energy Supply in China, 2000–2010 (MTOE)
Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2011.