But the solar spending spree is slowing. Last year the Chinese government slashed investment subsidies. In April it said it would give priority to wind and solar projects that can generate power at the lowest prices. (China also has a third of the world’s wind turbines.) This has contributed to a fall of 60% in Chinese investment in renewable energy in the past two years (see chart). American clean-energy investment has also declined. In Europe, greenish countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands are spending less, especially on relatively expensive projects such as offshore wind. Spain, which unveiled a renewable-energy plan in December, has picked up some of the slack.
Although investment in clean energy is down, production of it continues to rise. A dollar’s worth of solar-power investment yields about four times as much capacity as it did ten years ago. The capital costs of wind energy have fallen similarly. Over the decade, renewable-energy capacity has quadrupled. Half of that increase was from solar. Yet renewables are still a long way from replacing fossil fuels. That is especially true of coal in Asia. Despite China’s efforts to go green, it remains the world’s biggest consumer and producer of coal, which still accounts for three-fifths of its energy mix. India is building lots of coal-fired power plants; in South-East Asia the share of coal in electricity generation is on the rise. The world’s fuel palette still has too much black and too little green.
The production and use of renewable fuels has grown more quickly in recent years as a result of higher
In years to come, fossil fuel exporters will see a decline in their global reach and influence unless they can reinvent their economies for the New Energy Age. Over the past 50 years, some countries have used their position as one of the world’s largest oil and gas exporters to exert political leverage in their near neighborhood and beyond.