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China’s dangerous dominance in green energy

Wind turbines in China: a geopolitical weapon? Mo Qianwei/VCG/Getty

America recently signed a landmark green energy package into law, says Nick O’Malley in The Sydney Morning Herald, committing to $370bn in spending over the next decade. But that’s nothing compared to what China is doing. In the first half of this year alone, the country spent nearly $100bn on wind and solar projects. Last year it accounted for 46% of the world’s new construction of renewable energy infrastructure. China is going big in part because, like everyone else, it is being directly affected by climate change: some factories in Sichuan province had to close last week because drought had dried up the rivers, restricting hydroelectric power supply.

Beijing also has a geopolitical interest in green tech. It already dominates both the manufacturing of renewable technology and the production of base ingredients, such as the polysilicon used to make solar power devices. By 2025, China will produce about 95% of the world’s solar cells. Just as Europe allowed itself to be blackmailed over fossil fuels by Vladimir Putin, Western nations “might be setting themselves up for the same problem” with Xi Jinping over green energy. In one diplomatic dispute back in 2010, for example, Beijing banned the export of minerals critical to battery-making to Japan. But while it makes “geopolitical sense” for nations to develop their own green supply chains, China’s dominance in renewables is massively driving down costs. Reduce that dominance, and decarbonising the world gets a lot more expensive.