China as a Global Clean Energy Champion: Lifting the Veil.

AuthorDahl, Carol

China as a Global Clean Energy Champion: Lifting the Veil, by Philip Andrews-Speed and Sufang Zhang (Palgrave Series in Asia and Pacific Studies, 2019), 349 pages, ISBN 978-981-13-3491-7, ISBN 978-981-13-3492-4 (eBook).

Energy economists are aware of China's recent progress in low-carbon energy. China is now the largest global generator of solar, of wind, and of hydro power. Its global share is around 30% in each. China passed its main rivals-the USA for solar and wind around 2015, and its main two contenders for hydro, Canada and Brazil, around 2003 (BP, 2021). Although China has not yet attained the same global dominance in nuclear power, Chinese gains there are also impressive. Since its first nuclear production 1993, China has passed the number two producer, France, and attained more than 40% of U.S production by 2020. As the world's largest producer and exporter of solar photovoltaic (PV) (Observatory of Economic Complexity, 2019) and the world's largest dam builder for hydropower (Andrews-Speed and Zhang, 2019), China is also contributing to clean energy transitions elsewhere.

Energy efficiency is included in the definition of clean energy and China has made impressive strides here as well. Energy efficiency came on the Chinese government's radar in the late 1970s to promote economic development with scarce energy resources. After the Chinese energy shortages in the early 2000s, the push for efficiency acquired greater focus to help fuel the Chinese economy. Chinese real GDP grew dramatically from 1991-2019 with more than a 10 fold increase; energy intensity (energy use per unit of real purchasing power GDP) fell about 17% over the same period, which the authors attribute largely to increasing efficiency and productivity.

In this interesting Palgrave volume, Philip Andrews-Speed and Sufang Zhang lift the veil on this transition with a wealth of historical detail and institutional information that I have not encountered elsewhere. The introductory chapter is followed by a chapter laying out China's clean energy achievements. The next two chapters relate to the analytical framework, which includes three streams of literature: economic transition, institutionalism, and public policy (chapter 3). Chinese energy governance and policy are considered within these streams in chapter 4. The next six chapters are divided between three chapters that more specifically focus on clean energy, with another three that digress a bit to consider, (a) fossil fuels, (b) the relationship between water, energy, and food production and (c) carbon pricing. A short concluding chapter sums up their findings with comments on wider implications.

In the introduction, the authors lay out three questions to answer. How was this transition accomplished in terms of governance? What were the cost and unintended consequences of the transition? What are the limitations of Chinese policy approaches and the implications of China's clean energy transformation?

Chapter two lays out the Chinese achievements in clean energy in graphs and text from 1990 to 2017. We see the changing mix of energy sources both fossil and non-fossil, changes in: energy use, energy intensity, CO2 intensity, capacity and generation of wind and solar PV, etc. These are supplemented with a discussion of the energy goals as laid out by various five-year plans and national strategies as well as energy policies and laws that have been implemented. Renewable energy first became a specific target with the Renewable Energy Law of 2005. Subsequent policies in support of this and later laws have included investing in R&D, subsidies, feed in tariffs, and targets for renewable energy sources. The chapter also contains some discussion of problems that have arose such as waste and over capacity as well as the tension between local jurisdictions that do not always implement policies in line with central government goals.

Chapter three delves into the three schools of thought used for the subsequent analysis-socio-technical transitions...

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