China: 40 Year Experience in Renewable Energy Development

In less than 40 years, China has moved from a lagger to global leader status. While the energy demand has steadily grown at an unprecedented pace, frequently at a double-digit growth rate, the share of renewables in the total primary energy consumption ramped up from 4 percent in 1980 to about 13.1 percent in 2019, delivering considerable benefits in terms of avoiding local pollution and global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

With the China-World Bank Partnership Facility, a team of Chinese experts and World Bank energy specialists, directed by the World Bank-China Energy Unit coordination, explored the considerable experience that China has accumulated over the last 40 years and developed a report.

This report shows how China has increased its :

  • installed RE power generation capacity increased from about 20 GW in 1980 to nearly 795 GW in 2019, the largest capacity in the world, accounting for more than 31 percent of the global installed capacity
  • total commercial renewable energy utilization increased from about 24 million tons of coal equivalent (TCE) in 1980, about 4 percent of the total primary energy consumption, to 637 million TCE in 2019, about 13.1 percent of the country’s primary energy consumption.

This report offers several levels of reading of the overall 40 years-long journey of China ‘from lagger to leader’.