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China built more offshore wind in 2021 than every other country built in 5 years
New figures show China connected more offshore wind generation capacity last year than every other country in the world managed to install in the last five years.

The data, from the country’s National Energy Administration, indicate that just under 17 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity were installed in 2021. The extraordinary expansion means that China now operates almost half of the world’s installed offshore wind, with 26 gigawatts of a total of 54 gigawatts worldwide.

Presenting the figures, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said that when taking all solar and wind generation in account, the country added a whopping 101 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity in 2021.

China has overtaken the UK as the world leader in offshore wind capacity. The UK has around 10GW of offshore wind capacity, but has now been dwarfed by developments in China.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has pledged the nation will reach net zero emissions by 2060.

But there are major hurdles ahead, as per-capita electricity demand in China begins to catch up with that of European nations. Climate think-tank Ember found that the People’s Republic saw a 28% rise in electricity demand from 2017 to 2021—a rise in demand larger than the whole of India’s electricity grid in 2021. Yet the country still derives 84% of its energy from fossil fuels. The country has 1,082 coal fired power plants in operation, with plans to add more. At current rates, China could have 1,230 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity by 2025—more than the total energy generation capacity of the U.S. in 2020.

“China’s electricity paradox essentially reflects the fact that its electricity transition process is at the ‘energy additions’ stage, where both clean and coal power are rising, though the rise of clean power is at a much faster pace,” Yang said. “The outcome has been a relative, but not absolute, decline of coal power in the generation mix.”

“Moving China's electricity transition to the next stage, where coal power will be in absolute decline, is essential for achieving the country's climate commitments,” Yang added. “This is a very challenging task, and requires China to pursue all options it has for decarbonising its electricity supply.”

Overall, Chinese electricity demand rose 8% in 2021 from the previous year. Wind and solar overperformed, Jones explained, but nuclear, gas and hydro underperformed, leaving coal to make up the shortfall, and hold its market share at 68% of electricity generation. Yet Chinese electricity demand still has a long way to rise, with per-capita electricity usage still less than half of that of the U.S.

But that may not be the case for long, as China embraces the electrification of its economy. Last year, Chinese bought 3.3 million electric vehicles—an almost three-fold rise from 2020, making the country the world leader in EV uptake. A drive to electrify everything, from industry and agriculture to heating and transportation, is a key element of China’s five year plan. That’s because electrification is key to slashing air pollution and driving down greenhouse gas emissions.


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