China now leads the world in both wind power and emissions — so what?
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China now leads the world in both wind power and emissions — so what?

THE People’s Republic of China (population circa 1.38 billion) is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, followed by the United States (322 million), the entire European Union (508 million), India (1.28 billion) and Russia (1.44 million).

By comparison, China’s per capita CO2 emissions are 6.19 tons, compared to 17.5 in the United States, 1.64 in India and 12.18 in Russia (source: COTAP). And this doesn’t even take into account how the exporting industry from developed Western countries effectively exports emissions to China.

The point is that it is only natural that China, which has the largest amount of people, should also lead in … well, everything — at least on an aggregate basis.

All things being fair and equal (which of course they aren’t), shouldn’t countries be either stigmatized or praised, punished or rewarded due to their per capita emissions, pollution, waste, etc.?

China: Wind power leader

As the “natural leader”, China has already had the largest wind capacity of any single country. It has now even surpassed the European Union, which at last count was made up of 28 member states.

Numbers from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) show that from the end of 2014 to the end of 2015, China increased its wind power capacity from 114.6GW (gigawatts) to 145.1GW. The EU also increased its capacity from 129.1GW to 141.6. By comparison, the U.S., which is the third largest single territory in terms of wind power, went up from 65.9GW to 74.5.

This is partly about reducing carbon emissions, but it’s also an air quality issue that has become very, very urgent.

—Kate Gordon, vice chair for climate and sustainable urbanization, Paulson Institute

China’s wind power boom is credited to policies of the central government, such as its feed-in tariff for wind-generated electricity and pollution-controlling measures, including efforts in some regions to reduce dirty coal power generation. These policies have already shown positive results in some of China’s most-polluted regions. In Hebei province near Beijing, air pollution levels fell by an impressive 28.7 percent from 2013 to 2015.

There is also a strong domestic industry for manufacturing and installing wind turbines, which has become more cost-effective. As part of its current Five-Year Plan, beginning this year, China will strive to continue to increase its wind power capacity, leading to a demand of 14,000 new sets of wind turbine blades each year, according to a report by the Chinese wind turbine industry for 2015-2017.

A slowing of growth in wind power?

Despite China’s massive surge forward in 2015, some market experts predict a significant slowdown due to the Chinese government announcement last December that it will cut energy prices for wind farm operators.

Part of the problem is the existence of so-called power grid bottlenecks. Much of the construction of new wind farms last year occurred in China’s northwest, which has large wind resources, but little power demand. Addressing the bottlenecks will have to wait for the installation of ultra-high voltage (UHV) high-capacity power lines in order to transport electricity to more densely populated areas.

However, experts also warn that wind will still have to compete with other power sources in densely-populated and coastal regions, as capacity also grows for coal, solar and nuclear power.

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