China seen set to dominate global clean energy on investment surge

A worker at the world's largest floating solar power plant in a lake in Huainan, in China's central Anhui province on June 7, 2017.
A worker at the world's largest floating solar power plant in a lake in Huainan, in China's central Anhui province on June 7, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (Bloomberg) - China is set to dominate global construction and financing of clean energy after record investment in overseas ventures and takeovers last year.

The world's biggest energy user spent US$44 billion (S$58 billion) on large, international clean energy projects, and mergers and acquisitions in 2017, up almost 38 per cent from a year earlier, Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said in a report. China's Belt and Road Initiative has driven US$8 billion of solar exports and is proving a gateway to emergent sectors like energy storage.

"As the global transition toward renewables gains pace and as battery storage and electric vehicles technologies pick up momentum, China is setting itself up to dominate these sectors globally over the next decades of this century," according to the report released Wednesday (Jan 10).

China was quick to reaffirm emissions reduction pledges after US President Donald Trump said last year America would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. While China isn't necessarily intending to fill the "climate leadership void", it will be comfortable providing technology leadership and financial capacity, Tim Buckley, the report's co-author, said in a release.

Other key findings: Chinese solar manufacturers accounted for about 60 per cent of global solar cell production, and geographically new manufacturing capacity expansion announcements were more heavily weighted toward China than in 2016.

Major Chinese wind power firms continued to expand with China Energy Investment Corp, Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co and China Three Gorges Corp all making significant wind power investments overseas.

State Grid Corp of China, the world's largest power utility, completed the acquisition of a controlling stake in Brazil's CPFL Energia SA and is now the largest power distribution company in the Latin American country.

China is outmanoeuvring other economies to secure supplies of new energy materials such as lithium, nickel and rare earths and the country's miners are estimated to be responsible for 62 per cent of the global supply of cobalt.