China blows past clean energy record with extra wind capacity

The country managed to install a massive volume of green energy last year, much of which came in the form of wind power, taking observers by surprise and beating the previous record by a long shot.

Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP/Ritzau Scanpix

China blew past its previous record for renewable energy installations last year with a massive -- and surprising -- addition of wind power.

The National Energy Administration said in a press release on Wednesday that China added almost 72 GW of wind power in 2020, more than double the previous record. The country also added about 48 GW of solar, the most since 2017, and about 13 GW of hydropower.

China’s previous record for new renewables capacity across all technologies was about 83 GW in 2017, according to BloombergNEF.

The wind and solar installations were unexpectedly high, especially as they imply massive additions in the last weeks of 2020. The China Electricity Council had previously reported that as of the end of November, China had installed 24.6 GW of wind and 25.9 GW of solar for the year.

“It was quite a surprise to see wind power installations of 48 gigawatts in December,” said Robin Xiao, an analyst with CMB International Securities Corp. “Solar installations also beat expectations, but on more realistic grounds.”

The wind and solar figures were so high that analysts questioned whether the government adjusted the way it calculated capacity. The cutoff date for some onshore wind and solar subsidies was Dec. 31, and given that projects were delayed for months because of the pandemic, it may have allowed partially completed installations to count their entire capacity, Xiao said.

Against “the backdrop of carbon-neutral development, I think the Chinese government will tend to adopt relatively relaxed standards to promote the sector’s development,” he said.

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