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China leaves US (and Europe) in the dust on renewable energy

This year China has become the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels and wind turbines, doubling its wind capacity since 2005. The economically booming nation—and the world’s most populous—has also invested heavily in nuclear power and the world’s most efficient coal plants, according to the New York Times.

Still, even with massive investments in green energy, the industry is no-where near catching up to dirty fossil fuels in China. By 2020 the nation hopes to have 15 percent of its energy run on renewable technologies, but coal will likely still represent two-thirds of all energy produced.

Despite the predominance of coal, much of the advances in China—still considered by many to be a ‘developing’ country—has been pushed by government initiatives. The nation has spent billions on updating its electricity grid (between 2006 and 2011 the nation is estimated to spend 216 billion), provided subsides for people to install their own solar panels and solar water heaters, which are employed in one-in-ten households, and plans to spend over a trillion on expanding its rail services. China is even subsidizing the purchase of energy-efficient light bulbs.

China’s massive renewable initiative has also been adding jobs: according to the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association in 2008 the nation employs 1.12 million people in renewable industries.

Solar powered yurt in Western China. Photo by: Rhett Butler.

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