Over the past few months, Europe has sought to end its reliance on Russia’s fossil fuel imports by rapidly scaling up renewable energy generation. However, they are being helped in transition by Russia’s key ally China, as new research reveals that Beijing is set to export record numbers of solar energy technology. Data from energy research firm Wood Mackenzie revealed that China has been rapidly expanding its presence in the global renewable energy market by boosting exports of solar PV, wind turbines, and energy storage equipment.
Beijing is responsible for nearly 90 percent of lithium-ion batteries and two-thirds of solar module manufacturing capacity.
According to the research firm, China also enjoys the benefits of vast ecosystems of people, industrial parks, materials supply, and logistics.
Delegates at the Wood Mackenzie’s Power and Renewables Conference APAC were told that the country’s renewable energy export market was looking very optimistic, considering its massive scale, along with competitive costs of labour.
A recent report from the International Energy Agency also found that in 2021, China outpaced every other country in the world in adding new renewable energy capacity, accounting for 46 percent of global additions.
As European nations cut ties with Russia, Putin has been turning towards Mr Xi, to secure a major 30-year energy deal to build gas pipelines.
However, these figures suggest that Moscow cannot rely on Beijing for long.
Wood Mackenzie’s figures reveal that China currently has a manufacturing capacity of about 50 percent for wind turbines, 66 percent for solar modules, and 88 percent for battery storage.
However, the analysts warned that a significant portion of these wind turbines only serve China’s domestic markets, as the country’s technology is lagging behind the West.
But even these exports are rising, as analysts highlighted a backlog of 11GW in June.
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Meanwhile, a large percentage of Beijing’s solar and battery storage production is exported.
Alex Whitworth, head of Asia Pacific power and renewables research at the firm said: “Foreign countries are facing a tough choice between lower cost exports from China and trying to onshore renewable energy manufacturing in their own markets”.
Amidst this energy transition, experts have warned that Western countries could risk falling into another trap of over-reliance on a single country.
Stressing the importance of breaking China’s hold on the world, US energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, and the Australian climate change and energy minister, Chris Bowen, announced a “net-zero technology acceleration partnership” which included a focus on improving power grids and boosting energy storage solutions.
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In a joint press conference in Sydney, they admitted that the deal was partly motivated by the need to avert a situation similar to the one Europe is in with Russia.
In the press conference, Ms Granholm compared the West’s dependence on China’s critical minerals and technology, to Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.
She said: “I worry that China has big-footed a lot of the technology and supply chains that could make us vulnerable if we don’t develop our own supply chains.”