Originally published on Sustainnovate.
By Henry Lindon
Chinese wind energy installations rose to record highs in 2015, with 30.5 gigawatts (GW) of new project capacity installed during the year, according to recent reports. The country also appears to have surpassed its old record for new solar energy installations in a single year, with 16.5 GW of new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed there in 2015.
“Following on from reports earlier this week that China’s coal consumption declined by 4–5% over 2015, this gives yet more confirmation that the global electricity markets are transforming so much faster than anyone anticipated,” stated Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
The figures quoted above are, for the time being, preliminary estimates (via the Chinese Wind Energy Association/CWEA), but seem likely to be accurate. The official tally, coming via the National Energy Administration, is due for release shortly.
If the figures are correct, though, then that means that the country exceeded most analyst forecasts by 20% to 30% — possibly the result of a feed-in-tariff (FiT) revision that is set to affect wind projects completed after the 1st of the year.
The IEEFA provides more:
The total cumulative installed wind capacity across China is estimated to have reached 145 GW by end 2015. This is almost double the cumulative installs of 75 GW in the US, more than triple the estimated 43 GW of wind in Germany (#3 globally) and more than five time the 26 GW installed to-date in India (#4 globally).
China’s solar installs in 2015 are also thought to have set another world record for annual installs at an estimated 16.5 GW, as reported in Chinese PV industry news media this week. Germany in its best year ever commissioned a then record 7.6 GW of solar in 2012, while China installed a reported 12.9 GW in 2013 before a policy rejig to encourage more distributed rooftop solar saw a slowdown in installs in 2014.
IEEFA forecasts that China will install an additional 24 gigawatts (GW) of wind, 16 GW of new hydro, a record 6 GW of nuclear and another new record of 18-20 GW of solar (60% utility scale, 40% distributed rooftop solar) in 2016. With electricity demand forecast to grow by only 3-4% yoy (year-on-year) in 2016, this 65 GW of additional zero carbon electricity capacity will be more than sufficient to meet total demand growth, such that coal consumption is forecast to fall again in 2016.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, China’s new renewable energy investment (+ energy efficiency) rose to $110 billion in 2015, up 17% year-on-year from 2014. That number represents nearly double the US’s renewables investment level for the year ($56 billion).