China building twice as much wind and solar as rest of the world combined


China continues to lead the world in wind and solar, with twice as much capacity under construction as the rest of the world combined.

China is cementing its position as the global leader in renewables development with 180 GW of utility-scale solar and 159 GW of wind power already under construction, twice as much as the rest of the world combined and enough to power all of South Korea, according to new data from Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

The 339 GW of utility-scale solar and wind that have reached the construction stage accounts for one-third of all proposed wind and solar capacity in China, far surpassing the global construction rate of just 7%, according to GEM’s latest Global Solar Power Tracker and Global Wind Power Tracker updates. The stark contrast in construction rates illustrate the active nature of China’s commitment to building renewables projects.

China is home to almost two-thirds (64%) of the world’s utility scale solar and wind power in construction, with 339 GW. The US has 40 GW, Brazil 13 GW, the UK 10 GW and Spain 9 GW. One-third of planned utility-scale solar and wind in China is under construction, far exceeding the global average of 7%.

In 2023, China added almost twice as much utility-scale solar and wind power capacity than in any other year. By the first quarter of 2024, China’s total utility-scale solar and wind capacity reached 758 GW, though data from China Electricity Council put the total capacity, including distributed solar, at 1,120 GW. Wind and solar now account for 37% of the total power capacity in the country, an 8% increase from 2022 and widely expected to surpass coal capacity, which is 39% of the total, in 2024. China’s solar boom is also driving huge renewables expansion.

Over the last year, China installed more solar than it had in the previous three years combined and more than the rest of the world combined for 2023. Solar capacity first surpassed wind in 2022, and the gap has grown significantly larger, thanks to the massive expansion of distributed solar. Nearly half of the distributed solar added in 2023 was installed on residential rooftops, largely driven by China’s “whole county solar” model.

Distributed solar accounts for 41% of the total solar capacity and has experienced a higher growth rate than centralised solar since 2021. The growth is attributed to the advantages of lower investment costs, easy installation and strong policy support, making it more popular in the market.

Wind installations also doubled in growth. After a brief slowdown in 2022 due to the end of central government feed-in tariff subsidies, they bounced back in 2023. GEM’s Global Wind Power Tracker has documented a 51 GW wind capacity increase since 2023 – this growth itself exceeds the total operating capacity of any country, except the United States.

The combined capacity at pre-construction and announced stages for utility-scale solar power reaches 387 GW and 336 GW for wind. This includes the second and third waves of “mega wind and solar bases” with a combined capacity of approximately 503 GW, which will come online between 2025 and 2030. The first wave of “mega wind and solar bases” was announced in 2021 and spanned across 19 provinces. Most of the 97 GW in this first wave began operating in 2023 as scheduled, accounting for a third of China’s newly operating capacity, pointing to a promising future for the second and third waves.

On the province level, GEM’s data reveals that the northwest and north provinces continue dominating large-scale solar and wind installation. Meanwhile, distributed solar is rapidly transforming the landscape in central and southern provinces. According to the National Energy Administration, this trend has elevated Jiangsu, Henan, Zhejiang, and Anhui into the top six for solar capacity compared to one year ago.

Looking forward, if all proposed utility scale solar and wind projects come online as intended, China could easily reach 1,200 GW of installed wind and solar capacity by the end of 2024, without even accounting for distributed scale solar, six years ahead of President Xi Jinping’s promise to the world and one year faster than GEM forecasted last year.