Opinion article published in The Conversation, written by John Mathews, Professor of Strategic Management at Macquarie Graduate School of Management and Hao Tan, Senior Lecturer in International Business at University of Newcastle.

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has just released some remarkable data on the addition of new electric generating capacity in 2013. China’s electric power system has been growing at a tremendous rate to keep up with the country’s breakneck expansion of its manufacturing industry over the past decade.

China’s growing renewables

Between 2010 and 2011 China’s power system passed the 1 million kilowatt mark (kW), making it comparable in size to the US. In the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 the system was growing at around 10% a year, by amounts varying between 83 million kW and 94 million kW each year.

But in 2013 so far (the first 10 months, Jan to Oct), the National Energy Administration revealed that capacity additions have slumped. They total just 63 million kW so far, and might amount to perhaps 88 million kW for the year. The total power system in China appears to be levelling out.

The remarkable feature is that the share of renewables has leapt in significance. Whereas non-fossil fuel capacity additions totalled 31 million kW in 2012, these renewable and nuclear power stations have totalled 36 million kW so far this year – and could be projected to be 43 or 44 million kW for the whole year. That’s one new non-fossil power station of 1 million kW nearly every week!

But the even more astounding feature is that the additions powered by renewables now exceed those powered by fossil fuels (coal and gas) and nuclear. Capacity additions involving hydro, wind and solar PV have totalled 33.8 million kW so far this year, while capacity powered by fossil fuels amounts to 27.0 million kW and by nuclear is just 2.2 million kW – or 29.2 million kW for fossil fuels plus nuclear. The renewables plus nuclear in 2013 make up 57% of new capacity additions, while those powered by fossil fuels alone are down to 43%.

Read the full article in The Conversation.

* Opinion pieces represent the authors’ views.