ALFA BRIDGE

China built more solar panels in 2023 than entire world in 2022

China commissioned as much new solar power capacity in 2023 as the entire world did in 2022, as Beijing ramped up its drive to dominate the renewable energy market.

Renewable energy capacity surged globally last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a new report, driven chiefly by huge expansion in China.

 

“The world’s capacity to generate renewable electricity is expanding faster than at any time in the last three decades,” the IEA said, pointing out that capacity grew by 50pc globally in 2023.

Much of the growth has come from China. Swathes of the Gobi desert are being carpeted in solar panels. Last April the first stages of a planned 450 gigawatt solar and wind system were connected to the grid.

 

Xi Jinping, China’s autocratic president, has promised the country’s CO2 emissions will peak by 2030 but the breakneck expansion of renewables means it could start falling as soon as this year.

The world’s second-largest economy will be responsible for almost 60pc of the new renewable capacity added worldwide by 2028, the IEA said.

 

It said in its report: “The world is on course to add more renewable capacity in the next five years than has been installed since the first commercial renewable energy power plant was built more than 100 years ago.”

Next year the IEA expects the world to generate more energy from renewables than from coal in a symbolic shift within the energy system.

 

Other nations are trying to increase their production of solar panels, or solar photovoltaics (PV), given their importance to increasing production of clean energy.

 

But the world is expected to struggle to break free from China’s stranglehold on the market, which was driven for years by heavy subsidies and cheap exports.

The IEA said in its Renewables 2023 report: “Despite unprecedented PV manufacturing expansion in the United States and India driven by policy support, China is expected to maintain its 80-95pc share of global supply chains.

“Although developing domestic PV manufacturing will increase the security of supply and bring economic benefits to local communities, replacing imports with more expensive production in the United States, India and the European Union will increase the cost of overall PV deployment in these markets.”

 

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s president, used her EU state of the union speech last year to condemn China’s “unfair trade practices”, which she blamed for wiping out large chunks of Europe’s solar manufacturing industry.

Higher interest rates in the West are a further threat, the IEA said, with “higher costs hampering faster expansion of renewables” even as China’s central bank holds its borrowing costs down, making it easier to finance new power schemes there.

At the same time, inflation and unreliable supplies of raw materials have threatened wind turbine production, particularly in Europe. Britain is being hit hard, with operator Vattenfall recently cancelling plans for a turbine off the Norfolk coast because of soaring costs.

 

The IEA said: “Two of the largest countries for offshore wind additions outside of China – the US and the UK – are being acutely impacted by the changing economic conditions.”