The world's top 25 wind energy producers per capita. Graphic: Robert Wilson / Carbon Counter

3 July 2015 (Carbon Counter) – A new piece at the Conversation claims that China is an emerging “renewables powerhouse”. And it is a classic example of twisting the facts to suit your narrative. It is also a classic example of the repeated failure to use meaningful statistics when comparing countries.

Everything wrong with it, from a quantitative point of view, is shown by the following excerpt:

Targets for 2020, although not included in the UN submission, have already been set by the National Development and Reform Commission. China is aiming for 350 GW of hydro, 200 GW of wind power, and 100 GW of solar power, plus 58 GW of nuclear.

These levels are so far in advance of those of other countries that China can only be described as an emerging renewables superpower. In particular, wind and solar are racing ahead of nuclear, and hydro is being stabilized at just a little above current levels.

The conclusion here is wrong in almost every conceivable way.

First. Are wind and solar “racing ahead of nuclear”? Chinese wind farms have average capacity factors of around 23%. So by 2020 their average output will average less than 40 GW. However, Chinese nuclear power plants have average capacity factors of around 85%. And China is aiming for 58 GW of nuclear. So, nuclear is expected to have average output of just under 50 GW in 2020. Instead of racing ahead of nuclear, wind farms are slightly behind. Likewise, 100 GW of solar will translate to around 15 GW on average, or thereabouts depending on where in China the capacity is built. [more]

Narratives before facts: China is now a “renewables powerhouse”

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