Energy Transition

China rapidly expands wind power capacity: Here's what you need to know about the global energy transition this week

Energy transition: China generated 46% more wind power than the whole of Europe in 2022.

Energy transition: China generated 46% more wind power than the whole of Europe in 2022. Image: REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Roberto Bocca
Head, Centre for Energy and Materials; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
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  • This weekly round-up brings you the latest developments in the global energy sector.
  • Top energy news: China accelerates wind power capacity; Latin America looks to solar; Kenya deploys renewable mini-grids in remote areas.
  • For more on the World Economic Forum’s work in the energy space, visit the Shaping the Future of Energy, Materials and Infrastructure Platform.

1. China accelerates wind power capacity

China has been the world's largest and fastest-growing producer of renewable energy for more than a decade but has widened its global lead in the energy transition through a steep acceleration in the rollout of wind capacity since 2021. China added more wind generation capacity in the past two years than over the previous seven, according to the think tank Ember.

China generated 46% more wind power than the whole of Europe in 2022, which had been the world's top wind power producer until 2020. China's widening lead over the rest of the world in such a tight timeframe further cements its status as the global clean energy leader. While China has deployed record volumes of both solar and wind power capacity over the past decade, wind capacity has grown more steeply since 2020.

China is the global leader in wind and solar capacity. Energy
China is the global leader in wind and solar capacity. Image: Reuters

China's recent wind power expansion has also been sharply higher than that of other major markets. The cumulative growth in 2021 and 2022 was 3.6 times greater than the growth seen over the same period in the United States, and 7.3 times more than in Europe. Around 22% of wind capacity in the United States and 27% in Europe's top wind producer, Germany, was also installed before 2010, and so is likely to be less efficient than the latest generations of turbines.

China's rapid rollout of wind capacity, along with a more than 27% surge in solar generation in 2022 from the year before, helped push its electricity share from clean energy sources to a record 34.2% last year. Higher generation of renewable power has also helped cap power costs for consumers, just as the prices of coal and natural gas have risen sharply on international markets.

2. Latin America region looks to solar

Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have the largest solar power development pipeline outside Eastern Asia and North America. The region is constructing over four times more solar capacity than Europe, and nearly seven times more than India, the world's third-largest solar producer, according to data from Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

Solar power currently generates only 3-4% of the electricity produced across Latin America and the Caribbean. But with nearly 250 projects constructing 19,429 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity, the region's solar power supply potential is primed to jump by at least 70%, GEM data shows. An additional 97,119 MW of capacity has been announced or is in the pre-construction phase, which is more than is slated in the same categories in North America

The main drivers behind the solar push are Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru. Collectively, these countries account for over 88% of the current installed solar capacity in the region, and about 97% of planned capacity additions that are already in construction. Those same countries also account for roughly 65% of the region's power sector emissions of CO2, according to to think tank Ember.

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3. News in brief: More energy stories from around the world

The EU is likely to exceed its 2030 target for clean energy, according to a new report. The target was a 40% market share by the end of the decade, but the bloc is now projected to get to 45%, according to the think tank Ember.

Power generated from zero-carbon sources comprised 41% of the US electricity mix last year. The record increase is largely due to added solar and wind capacity, according to data from BloombergNEF, reports USA Today.

The US government is offering $1.2 billion in aid to extend the life of financially distressed nuclear power plants, including a first-ever offer of funding to a plant that has recently closed. The White House believes nuclear power is a crucial source of virtually carbon-free electricity that needs to be maintained and expanded to reach a pledge of 100% "clean electricity" by 2035.

Rare discounts offered by Chinese battery giant CATL to car-makers have accelerated a global plunge in lithium prices. The market is set to drop a further 25% with supply growth outpacing demand, analysts and traders say.

A decline in the cost of solar, wind and battery storage means Japan can get 90% of its power from clean electricity by 2035, according to new research. A US energy department-backed study also found that Japan's power grid, with extra battery storage and inter-regional transmission lines, can remain reliable without coal generation or new gas-fired power plants.

Spain has approved its first boundary delimitations for where wind farms can be developed off the country's coast. Spain has one of the largest expanses of sea in the EU and vast potential for harnessing the offshore wind.

Kenya is constructing 136 solar-powered mini-grids in remote areas not properly served by the national electricity grid. Off-grid solar power, spearheaded by start-ups, has gained popularity in Africa in recent years for homes and businesses left off mainstream electricity grids.

Portugal's largest utility, EDP, says it will spend €25 billion ($27 billion) over four years to nearly double its renewable energy capacity to 33 gigawatts by 2026. More than 90% of the investment would be in onshore wind and solar, with the rest going to offshore wind, batteries and hydrogen.

A US company that converts rotting food into energy says it has received a $1 billion commitment from Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge to expand its facilities across North America. It’s the latest in a string of investments by major energy companies in biogas, which can replace traditional natural gas but is more costly to produce.

4. More on energy from Agenda

The global energy industry was responsible for 135 million tonnes of methane emissions in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency. This was only slightly below record levels seen in 2019.

Concrete manufacturing is responsible for 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Investment in transformative zero-carbon technologies can help decarbonize the hardest-to-abate industrial sectors, two experts explain.

Industrial clusters can be heavy emitters, but they also provide the most significant opportunities for decarbonization. Targeting Scope 2 emissions – gases emitted indirectly from purchased energy – through greater use of renewable energy and heat on-site, can help lead the clean energy push.

To learn more about the work of the Energy, Materials, Infrastructure Platform, contact Ella Yutong Lin: ellayutong.lin@weforum.org

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