• Global Green Shift

China’s and Germany’s green shifts in electric power generation compared

On September 21 this blog posted an analysis of China’s green shift in electric power generation, while a similar analysis of Germany’s green shift (Energiewende) was posted on September 20. It is now appropriate to compare the experience of these two leading industrial powers.

Germany’s experience is captured in the following chart, showing the rising proportion of power generated from renewable WWS sources up to the year 2016.

Figure 1. Germany electric power generation, 2000-2016

The chart reveals that under the impulse of the official German policy of ‘energy transformation’ (Energiewende) the proportion of power generated from renewable WWS sources has risen from 16% in 2007 to 34% by 2016 – or 18% in a decade. This is a truly astonishing shift for such a large technoeconomic entity as the German electric power system.

The comparable chart for China was posted on Sep 21, and is reproduced again in Fig. 2.

Figue 2. China’s annual generation of electricity, 1990-2016

The chart reveals that the proportion of power generated from renewable sources – WWS –has risen from 15% in 2007 to 25% in 2016 – or a 10% green shift in a decade. Almost all of this is due to increases in power generation from wind and solar PV sources.

So Germany’s green shift has been accomplished at a faster pace than China’s. But of course China’s green transformation is occurring at a much larger scale – with green power generation rising from 500 TWh in 2007 to 1500 TWh in 2016 – or a 1000 TWh increase in a decade. In Germany’s case the increase is more modest – with generation from WWS sources rising from 90 TWh in 2007 to 180 TWh in 2016 – or a 90 TWh increase in the decade. China’s green shift is more than 10 times larger than Germany’s. And Germany’s green shift is the largest and most rapid of all the advanced industrial countries.

Germany’s green shift has been driven by consistent government policy favouring a rapid withdrawal from nuclear power and a much slower withdrawal from thermal sources of power (coal and gas). The principal policy tool has been financial incentives paid to producers/consumers of renewable power – known as feed-in tariffs. This policy tool has been complemented by a weak EU-level emissions trading scheme, which has languished with low carbon prices now for several years. The German support for renewables has been countered by continuing subsidization of fossil fuel production and use.

By contrast, China’s green shift in power production has been driven by investment promotion at both national and provincial level, with a focus not just on generation of power (through promotion of wind farms and solar farms) but on extending the grid and on manufacturing of renewables devices and energy storage systems. China’s policy tool kit has been supplemented recently by a national emissions trading scheme, which will force fossil fuels to trade at a higher price and provide a market incentive for renewables. It has recently been announced that China will take a major step towards green private transport by placing a ban on sales of new combustion vehicles (at a date to be announced), thus opening the way to dominance of electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles. Germany has not yet extended its Energiewende from power generation to transport in this manner.

Acknowledgment: My thanks to Ms Carol Huang for assistance in drawing the charts.