“The sleeping dragon has awoken”, says Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
CHINA’S 12GW SOLAR MARKET OUTSTRIPPED ALL EXPECTATIONS IN 2013
23 January 2014
Last year was a record year for PV installation worldwide, with a rush of activity in China on the back of a national feed-in tariff one of the main drivers
Beijing and Zurich, 23 January 2014 – China’s solar developers installed a record 12GW of photovoltaic projects in 2013, and a booming market at the very end of the year may even have pushed installations up to 14GW. No country has ever added more than 8GW of solar power in a single year prior to 2013, and China’s record outstripped even the most optimistic forecasts of 12 months ago.
But then, China is no ordinary country. It’s massive — home to nearly a fifth of the world’s population. And the capacity of solar PV is dismal. 10%, on average. And of course, the ‘boom’ in China’s PV sector is driven by subsidy:
A CNY 1 (16 US cents) per kWh feed-in tariff for large PV projects connecting to the transmission grid ended on 1 January, creating the year-end rush. China’s National Energy Administration announced earlier this month that there were 12GW of 2013 installations, but this preliminary estimate may be exceeded.
According to this infographic, the price of electricity in China is 8 US cents per kwH. So electricity from solar PV in China costs three times as much as electricity produced conventionally. But how much is it really, anyway?
12 Gigawatts of capacity is a lot.
It is 12,000 megawatts…
or 12,000,000 kilowatts…
or 12,000,000,000 watts
But solar PV cells are only about 10% efficient. So that’s
And there are 1.351 billion people in China. So that’s a whopping…
0.89 watts of net capacity per person. And yet…
“The 2013 figures show the astonishing scale of the Chinese market, now the sleeping dragon has awoken” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “PV is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install, and China’s government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives.”
The focus on “the scale of the Chinese Market” forgets the scale of China. The Dragon doesn’t even have enough power to sit on standby mode, much less wake itself.
China, however, is, by contrast powering itself. But much debate exists about how.
Founder & CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance — which is part news agency, part green energy lobbying organisation, and part environmental NGO — tweeted a challenge to Bjorn Lomborg, who has criticised claims that China is leading the clean energy ‘revolution’.
Michael Liebreich @MLiebreich 2h
@Sustainable2050 And it’s only 16c/kWh. I want to see @BjornLomborg claim the Chinese should burn more coal and eat more smog instead of PV.
Lord Deben — or John Gummer, as he is affectionately known by his critics — joined in the tweeting…
John Deben @lorddeben 1h
@MLiebreich @KeithAllott @Sustainable2050 @BjornLomborg Happily they wouldn’t listen as the Chinese are following the science!
The Chinese are following the science… Says Gummer. Never mind sleeping dragons, the sleep of reason brings forth monsters.
However, a more sober news agency — Reuters — reported recently that,
China approves massive new coal capacity despite pollution fears
BEIJING, Jan 8 (Reuters) – China approved the construction of more than 100 million tonnes of new coal production capacity in 2013 – six times more than a year earlier and equal to 10 percent of U.S. annual usage – flying in the face of plans to tackle choking air pollution.
The scale of the increase, which only includes major mines, reflects Beijing’s aim to put 860 million tonnes of new coal production capacity into operation over the five years to 2015, more than the entire annual output of India.
Chinese coal production of 3.66 billion tonnes at the end of 2012 already accounts for nearly half the global total, according to official data. The figure dwarves production rates of just over 1 billion tonnes each in Europe and the United States.
A tonne of coal can produce about 2000 kilowatt hours of electricity. 3.66 billion tonnes can produce 7,320,000,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity — or seven hundred times as much as China’s solar PV output. In other words and numbers, the 12GW of solar PV capacity added to China’s grid in 2013 was equivalent to 5.2 million tonnes of coal — around a twentieth of the coal producing capacity it added in the same year.
China’s coal use is projected to increase to nearly 5 billion tonnes by 2020.
The ‘sleeping dragon’ is not going to even open its eyes until the cost of solar PV has been reduced by at least a third, and that’s not even taken into account the costs of intermittent nature of solar power.
As I’ve argued previously on these pages, what environmentalists in general, and green energy evangelists in particular have missing is a sense of proportion.