Wind and solar now provide 10% of growth in China’s energy consumption

I 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, and I hope I do not qualify as an insta-expert/pundit. However, I can read a spreadsheet.

The blog post compared the growth in solar and wind in 2014 to the average growth in total primary energy consumption averaged over the last decade. I argued that one data point was not a good way to judge a “revolution”, much less discern a trend.

Trying to be proactive, rather than argumentative, I produced the data I thought should be in the post from the same data source.


This chart shows the percentage of the growth in China’s primary energy consumption that is being met by new wind and solar sources (according to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2015)

Before 2005, effectively none of the growth in energy use in China was being met by new wind and solar generation. In 2013, about 12 percent of the growth was provided by new wind and solar resources. In 2014, that figure was about 11.5 percent. So the share of China’s growing energy consumption that is provided by new wind and solar is definitely increasing, and hence so is total wind and solar production as a share of total consumption (1.4 percent in 2014 according to BP).

Here’s another way to look at it: in 2000, wind and solar production in China was basically zero. In 2014, production from wind and solar sources in China was more than the total annual energy consumption of twenty six countries listed in BP’s data book (including developed countries like Kuwait, Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand and Denmark). So the solar and wind generators in China can now provide the equivalent of all the energy (including equivalent of fuels for transportation and heating, not just electricity) required to power a small, modern western European country.

Is this a “revolution”? I’ll leave that to others. I’d say the growth of solar and wind production in China is very, very strong. Of course, the growth in total energy consumption in China is very, very strong also.

An engineering problem

While it’s ridiculous to claim that avoiding the impacts of climate change is merely an engineering problem, it looks increasingly likely some mega-projects could be essential soon.

Market Urbanism points me to this infrastructure seminar on storm surge barriers for NYC.

The seminar culminated in the presentation of four conceptual designs of the storm surge barriers:

  • Michael Abrahams of Parsons Brinckerhoff proposed a flap-type barrier for the upper East River with a series of panels across the river that normally rest on the bottom, but are raised when a surge is expected.
  • Larry Murphy of Camp Dresser & McKee showed a barrier across the Arthur Kill with tide gates, parallel navigation locks, and a pedestrian draw bridge.
  • Peter Jansen and Piet Dircke of Arcadis presented the design of a barrier across the Narrows, just north of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The barrier would consist of a pair of rolling or sliding sector gates spanning an 870-foot opening in the center, adjoined by 16 lifting gates with a span of 130 feet, and two lifting gates with a span of 165 feet.
  • Dennis Padron and Graeme Forsythe of Halcrow introduced another concept. They proposed a New York–New Jersey Outer Harbor Gateway, a barrier extending from Sandy Hook to the Rockaways, a 5-mile long system of causeway and gates. A key consideration of the outer barrier system concept is that it would not be intended to completely prevent surge waters outflanking the flood defenses at the extreme ends of the barrier system, but rather it would deflect surge energy and mitigate water levels in the Upper and Lower Bay to manageable levels.

Preliminary estimates of the costs of the barriers by the designers were $1.5 billion for the upper East River site, $1.1 billion for the Arthur Kill, $6.5 billion for the Narrows barrier, and $5.9 billion for the Gateway barrier system.

It will be interesting to see how these cost estimates compare to damage estimates in the coming weeks.

Property-Assessed Clean Energy could be coming to Minnesota

Photo CC licensed by flickr user Wayne National Forest

I write a lot about planning here, but the other half of my work is focused on energy and climate change.  I intend to post more about these topics in the near future, starting with this post.

Today Governor Pawlenty signed a Jobs bill contains many provisions, most of which don’t directly relate to energy.  However, a provision overlooked by most news outlets is enabling language for Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).  PACE is a tool that helps overcome one of the largest barriers for homeowners to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects: upfront costs.  Local governments (cities and counties) sell bonds which are paid back through voluntary assessments on the properties of individuals who participate in the program.  Loan paybacks are much longer (15 to 20 years) than typical home equity loans or existing energy improvement loans, so the amount of energy savings can sometimes be greater than the loan payback cost.

Another advantage to these programs is that  the assessment stays with the property, not the individual, so homeowners do not have to assume they will live in one place for 20 years to see the benefits of a renewable energy system, for example.  These programs can also have significant benefits for the local economy.  Boulder County’s Climate Smart Loan Program, which distributed its first round of funding in 2009, has already paid out over $7.5 million to contractors for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.  The vast majority of this work was done by local contractors, and the 75% of the bonds were sold locally, providing “green” investment options to residents.

PACE programs already exist in many cities and counties.  The enabling legislation that became law today means that cities and counties in Minnesota can begin building their own PACE programs.  If you’re interested in making it easier to do energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, start pestering your local elected officials now.  Tell them they now have the power to build these programs and you are interested!