Asia Looms Large as Potential Renewable Energy Superpower

Developing Nations Shock the World By Outspending the Big Guys

Anyone who keeps abreast of investment trends is more than likely familiar with recent data and subsequent hullabaloo over the fact that poorer developing Nations have been outspending their wealthier, highly developed counterparts in the field of Renewable Clean Tech.

While Undeveloped nations had been slowly closing the gap in Renewable spending for a few years prior, 2015 was the year that broke the mold. For the first time, the underdogs’ total investments eclipsed first world big dogs.The trend has continued upward to 2017, with the widest gap seen so far. Developed Countries spent just $103 billion on renewable energy, the lowest sum seen since 2006, while Developing Nations renewable investments totaled a whopping $177 billion.

How Did This Happen?

A number of factors came into play to allow for this shift to take place. Political winds having shifted in a number of highly developed countries in the last few years revealed a more conservative outlook on many issues, including energy. Fossil fuels have been more highly sought out, while clean tech has been given the unfavorable reputation of being not only costly and unrealistic, but a venture that would steal jobs from the fossil fuel industry’s working class. Heavy bias in these governments was shown toward tried-and-true fossil fuels, who received four times more subsidiary money than renewables.

This change in outlook was taking place while many of the world’s developing countries were figuring out how to connect large scale power grids for the first time. Unburdened by political pressures from existing energy superpacts and without the problem of how to phase out an enormous industry so closely tied to the prosperity of their economies as a whole, these undeveloped nations found renewable energy much more cost-effective. They were free to seek out the least expensive route to power. They did so out of financial necessity, as opposed to ecological reasons, which shows just how wrong-headed traditional perspectives on “going green” actually are.

China Takes the Lead in the Race for Renewables

Panorama of Envision’s wind farm in Shanxi, China

Since China, India, and Brazil have come to be recognized as the top developing countries driving the renewable energy surge, media hype has dubbed them ‘The Big Three’.These countries collectively contributed $143.6 billion of 2017’s developing countries’ renewable l investments $177 billion total, which is no small feat.

However, perhaps more significant is the fact that China alone spent $126.6 billion, representing just under half of the global total. India and Brazil together contributed the remaining $17 billion.

Solar dominated China’s clean tech investment portfolio last year, with a budget of more than $86.5 billion. The country installed a total of 53 gigawatts, which supersedes the entire world market amount in 2014. China has diversified its solar capacity from traditional land-based projects to industrial parks and rooftops. Initiatives abound, such as the some 800 sunshine schools that have begun pooping up in Beijing. These primary and middle schools are able to generate 100 megawatts on their own roofs to power themselves. Businesses are incentivized with small subsidies to install their own solar panels as well.

Wind came in as China’s second most funded power source. Onshore wind investments totaled $24.6 billion, while offshore wind has taken off. A total of 18 offshore windfarms were initiated last year, reaching a new spending high of $10.8 billion.

Is Asia Emerging as the Leader Of Clean Tech?

With China being so far ahead of every other nation in terms of renewable investments, and India coming in 4th globally, it is no wonder that the continent of Asia as a whole makes up nearly half of the total renewable energy generation capacity.

India is the World’s 4th biggest Renewables Investor

Having initiated the largest renewables investment increase to date, India’s generating capacity soared to 18% in 2017. This accounts for 10% total global growth in renewable energy capacity. With the country’s solar energy capability nearly doubling since the previous year, they have been able to command 19 gigawatts. Southeastern India’s 350 megawatt solar plant began operations last Spring. Azure Power opened several solar plants in 2017 as well. Currently operating at a capacity of almost 33 gigawatts, wind energy capacity saw a 15% increase. Experts attribute these strides toward sustainability to Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s goal of increasing the country’s solar power capacity to 100 gigawatts by the year 2022.

Plans for further growth are already underway. SoftBank Group, based out of Japan, has plans to build renewable energy plants in India, which aims at a total capacity of 20 gigawatts.

Other Asian Countries Making Large Strides

A panda-shaped solar plant built by Panda Green Energy Group in Shanxi Province was connected to the grid last year. © Reuters

Two out of The Big Three developing nation renewable investors, China and India are unquestioningly the continent’s heavy hitters, but they are far from the only Asian countries making historic strides in green energy. Over the past 5 years, clean tech capacity has nearly doubled in the whole of Asia.

Motivated by China’s offer of increasing purchase prices for solar energy, neighboring countries have taken the initiative toward solar capabilities. What’s more, many other Eastern countries have invested in their own green ventures, and innovations have been popping up throughout the continent.

Japan: Asia’s third largest renewable energy producer and ranked 7th globally, Japan is a little country with big ambition. Increasing 7 gigawatts in total renewable energy from last year, their capacity now sits at 82 gigawatts. 96% of that increase is due to solar innovation.

Vietnam: Having acheived 18 gigawatts of capacity, Vietnam owes its recent power surge to Hydropower, which currently accounts for one third of the country’s total energy production. Electricity of Vietnam Group, Vietnam’s largest electric company, bought out two Hydropower Plants, totaling 335 megawatts of power.

 

Bangladesh: Though it may come as a surprise Bangladesh currently holds the title for having the world’s largest market for solar homes.

Sources Cited

https://qz.com/1247527/for-every-1-the-us-put-into-renewable-energy-last-year-china-put-in-3/

http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2013/04/08/portable-solar-power-for-nomadic-herders

http://fs-unep-centre.org/sites/default/files/publications/gtr2018v2.pdf

https://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/cleantech/josh_elkin/developing_world_taking_over_renewable_energy

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/renewable-energy-investment-developed-world-developing-world-ren21-report-a7058436.html

https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Asia-leads-the-charge-in-growth-of-renewable-energy

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