There is no renewables revolution in China. Here are the numbers that show this

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Last year China installed more new wind and solar capacity than any country in history. This is a fact, and it has led some to talk of China being a “renewables powerhouse” and of there being a “renewables revolution”.

But out of context this fact can be much less impressive than it really is.

Let me put it into context using the most recent data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy.

Over the last decade China’s primary energy consumption grew by 1398 million tonnes of equivalent (Mtoe). Though, if history is a guide this figure will eventually be revised upwards.

The annual average increase then was 140 Mtoe. For a comparison, Britain’s annual primary energy consumption was 188 Mtoe last year.

China’s growth rate was actually higher in the early 2010s, but has slowed recently (probably due to a worsening economic situation.

But that’s the context for judging the growth of wind and solar in China: 140 Mtoe of (mostly coal) energy added per year for the last decade.

How does China’s world leading wind and solar build out compare with this?

In total, China got 42.4 Mtoe from wind and solar in 2014. In other words, the total production of energy from wind and solar energy is less than one third of a year’s of growth in primary energy consumption.

When you look at annual growth things are even clearer. Wind and solar grew by 6.97 Mtoe last year. This is a mere 5% of the average total growth in primary energy.


There is no renewables revolution in China. So, as always, I recommend that people spend some time with data sources such as the BP Statistical Review of World Energy and less time reading pundits and the instant experts of Twitter.


12 thoughts on “There is no renewables revolution in China. Here are the numbers that show this

    Sam Taylor said:
    June 17, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Shouldn’t you be using the partial subsitution method here, per that article you posted the other week? I expect it wouldn’t make things that much more impressive, but still.


      Robert Wilson said:
      June 17, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      This is BP data, and as I pointed out then, BP uses the partial substitution method.


    […] got into a twitter discussion about a blog post that was challenging the idea that China is seeming a “renewables revolution”. I do not claim to be a China expert, I […]


    edhoskins said:
    June 18, 2015 at 3:52 pm


    I have been looking ta the recently release BP data

    My short notes are set out here

    Here are some of the highlights that can be gleaned from it
    • by 2014 CO2 emissions for the developing world were 44% higher than those from the developed world.
    • China’s CO2 emissions / head for its population of some 1.4 billion almost matched the emissions / head in Europe.
    • China’s CO2 emissions / head was higher than both France and the UK.
    • CO2 emissions / head for India and the rest of the world’s Underdeveloped nations (~53% of the world population) remained very low at ~1.7 tonnes / head, meaning that their state of very serious energy deprivation and underdevelopment was continuing.
    • India overtook China in the growth of its CO2 emissions
    • India’s growth in CO2 emissions 2013 – 2014 was at twice China’s level.

    You may enjoy some of the other papers on the site


    dmfant said:
    June 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Reblogged this on synthetic zero and commented:

    don’t believe the hype…


    […] 1) Greece Turns To Coal, Calls Renewable Energy A Threat To National Security – PV Magazine, 19 June 2015 2) Poland’s Next Government May Op-Out Of EU Decarbonisation Plan – Bloomberg, 22 June 2015 3) Germany’s Energy Crisis Deepens: Majority Of Planned Power Plants In Doubt – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20 June 2015 4) ‘Capitalists Should Thank Heaven For Green Socialism’ – The American Interest, 20 June 2015 5) American Politicians Try To Kill Britain’s Shale Revolution – BBC News, 20 June 2015 6) Fraser Nelson: The Tories Must Seize The Chance To Rethink Climate Policy – The Daily Telegraph, 19 June 2015 7) And Finally: There Is No Renewable Energy Revolution In China – Carbon Counter, 17 June 2015 […]


    andreasmarciniak said:
    June 25, 2015 at 6:11 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.


    Sturle said:
    June 27, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Since when did hydroelectric power stop being renewable energy? You are comparing apples and oranges as well, by comparing primary energy with high quality electrical power. Electric power can be converted to almost anything without loss. Coal can only be converted to heat without loss. To convert primary energy into e.g. movement, you need more than three times the amount of primary energy if you use coal than if you use electricity.


      Robert Wilson said:
      June 27, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Do you actually know how BP calculates the primary energy of wind and solar? Please look this up.


    vm02 said:
    June 30, 2015 at 5:21 am

    here there’s a graph that similar to the graph above, but its more useful because it has hydro, nuclear, solar, wind and gas and coal.


    […] […]


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