Oh Dear: The World Is Losing Interest In Renewable Energy

  • Date: 05/09/19
  • The Economist

China, which once accounted for almost half of all investment in renewables, has seen the biggest drop

TWENTY YEARS ago China had virtually no solar panels. Today the country has a quarter of the world’s total, according to the International Energy Agency. That includes a 1km “solar highway”—a road paved with panels capable of powering 800 homes—and a 250-acre solar farm shaped like two smiling pandas. The country plans to build a solar-power plant in space to capture the sun’s energy and beam it back to Earth. Investment on such a scale has made solar power cheaper: Chinese cities now pay less for it than for grid electricity. Other countries have accused China of dumping subsidised panels in their markets.

But the solar spending spree is slowing. Last year the Chinese government slashed investment subsidies. In April it said it would give priority to wind and solar projects that can generate power at the lowest prices. (China also has a third of the world’s wind turbines.) This has contributed to a fall of 60% in Chinese investment in renewable energy in the past two years (see chart). American clean-energy investment has also declined. In Europe, greenish countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands are spending less, especially on relatively expensive projects such as offshore wind. Spain, which unveiled a renewable-energy plan in December, has picked up some of the slack.

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