China’s goal is, on good authority, now to reach 300 GW by 2020 – making the country by far the world’s largest practitioner of this clean power source. As the capacity factor for wind power rises (with the most recent Salkhit 50 MW wind farm in Mongolia reaching a capacity factor of 40 per cent) this would translate into just over 1000 TWh of electricity, or fully a fifth of China’s current requirements.
This energy revolution is part of China’s wider shift as it industrialises at breakneck speed. China is staging a ‘Great Convergence’ – a transformation that will reverse the past two centuries of the Great Divergence, which separated China (as well as the other BICs, Brazil and India) from the West. In the process, these countries are now lifting billions of people out of poverty.
But in this great transformation, there is a significant problem to contend with: The model of fossil-fuelled industrial capitalism that served the West so well – and which has been held out as a model for the BICs – will simply not “scale” to meet the aspirations of so many billions of people.