Thursday, April 28, 2011

China's "green leap forward"

Will China dominate the emerging market for alternative energy sources?  It produces half of the world's solar panels and a third of the new wind turbines.  But in a recent WP op-ed, Bjorn Lomborg points out that very little of this new capacity is being installed in China.  Instead, China is manufacturing these devices and exporting them to the US and Europe where they are heavily subsidized.  China still gets 87 percent of its energy from fossil fuels, mostly coal. 

The Chinese are getting a leg up with one new energy source: solar heaters, which are apparently cheaper than fossil fuels in some applications.  Lomborg concludes:
This is the green lesson China holds: A green future will result not from subsidizing immature technology today but from developing competitive green technology that is effective and cheap. Wind and solar power are not yet competitive. Research would be a much better investment for Western countries than subsidizing imports of today’s green technology from China. Until we can make alternative energy technology effective and affordable for everybody, there will be no happy ending to the “green” success story.

1 comment:

  1. Although solar power is not cost effective today, a reasonable projection is that it will be within the next 10 years. Apparently Moore's law seems to model solar efficiency pretty well:
    Counter to the op-ed piece, I'd argue that western countries are investing in research into viable alternative energy - they are subsidizing solar panel technology in china.