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Solar Energy Becomes China’s Second Largest Energy Source In Terms Of Capacity in 2016

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China Power Generating Capacity By Energy Type

Solar energy was the second largest source of energy installed in 2016 in China overtaking other prominent mainstream source such  wind energy, nuclear and hdyro energy. In fact it was not far away from coal energy either. China installed a gargantuan 34 GW plus of solar energy capacity in 2016 far ahead of wind energy at 19 GW. Though the Chinese government wants to go slow on solar energy installed in the future reducing its 2020 target from 150 GW to 105 GW, the sheer momentum behind solar energy, the falling costs and the pollution issues which has kept most Chinese cities under a constant winter haze of smog means that it is almost certain that the 105 GW target will be exceeded.


China power-generating capacity by type of energy, 2016
Type of energy Capacity added in 2016 Cumulative capacity at end of 2016 Y/Y
Thermal 48.4GW 1,053.38 6.3%
Hydraulic 11.7GW 332.11 3.9%
Wind 19.3GWp 148.60GWp 13.2%
PV 34.24GWp 77.42GWp 81.6%
Nuclear 6.38GW 33.64GW 23.8%

Source: NEA, compiled by Digitimes, January 2017

The growth in solar energy was also far ahead of its peers at 81% with others recording much lower growth figures. Nuclear and wind also recorded double digit growth figures. Thermal energy at 48 GW was the largest energy but China has recently sharply curtailed its plan to build more coal powered plants as the government receives a severe backlash from citizens against the problem of coal generated pollution.

Solar Energy at 77 GW capacity is relatively small compared to the more than 1000 GW of coal power which means that solar energy capacity has a huge room to expand to come even close to coal power. Wind Energy also remains on a strong wicket with 19 GW making China the largest installer of wind energy capacity in 2016 and having the largest cumulative capacity of wind turbines in the world as well. China has become the world leader in both wind and solar power capacity in a few short years as it massively increases the investments in these clean sources of energy. A giant manufacturing base of wind turbine and solar panel manufacturing further support the growth of the green twins.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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