Infographic: Why China is Kicking Our Ass in Clean Tech

posted by Dave Llorens on July 20th, 2011

Infographic:  Why China is Kicking our Ass in Clean Tech

infographic: why china is kicking our ass in clean tech

Why China is Kicking Our Ass in Clean Tech

Over the past five years China’s renewable economy has been steadily growing and has now taken the first place spot over the U.S. From investing in clean tech to the active construction of wind farms and photovoltaic plants, China is kicking our American asses around the electric grid. Below are a few reasons why.

Current Capacity

China has officially overtaken the U.S. in renewable energy investments and in total renewable energy produced annually.

Total renewable capacity:

  • China: 103 gigawatts
  • U.S.: 58 gigawatts
Total wind capacity:
  • China: 43,410 megawatts
  • U.S.: 39,270 megawatts
Total solar capacity:
  • China: 800 megawatts
  • U.S.: 3,100 megawatts

Manufacturing Jobs

China is investing $9 billion a month in clean energy and is expected to become the world’s biggest market for wind and solar energy within 5 years. According to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the U.S. used to manufacture more than 40% of the world’s solar cells.


Solar Manufacturing Heads to China

Already, China’s commitment to the solar industry is spurring American technology companies to move their facilities across the Pacific. U.S. Evergreen Solar Inc. moved its production facilities from Massachusetts to China. GE shuttered its solar production facility in Delaware. BP’s solar unit in Maryland ceased production of solar panels in favor of importing panels from China.


Running on renewables

Currently the U.S. derives only 8% of its energy from renewable sources. In contrast, China derives 15% and should at least 20% by 2020.


Attracting renewable investments

In a recent report by Ernst & Young, global renewable markets were indexed according to their attractiveness for renewable investment. The U.S. placed second behind China.

All renewable energy (index points out of 100):

  • China: 72
  • U.S.: 67
Wind Energy
  • China: 78
  • U.S.: 66
Solar Energy
  • China: 62
  • U.S.: 74
  • China: 79
  • U.S.: 60

Investments in Renewables

China may produce a greater number of gigawatts and rank higher on global market charts, but could they possibly outspend us? Seemingly impossible for the largest economy in the world, but once again we have our proverbial butts handed to us on a fossil fuel platter.


Total renewable investment:

  • China: $54.4 billion
  • U.S.: $34 billion
5 year growth rate in investments:
  • China: 88%
  • U.S.: 61%

Distribution of investment by sector

Perhaps the lag in energy growth is not just due to the lack of funding, but the misplaced distribution of the renewable resource budget.
  • Wind: 72%
  • Other renewables: 17.5%
  • Solar: 6.3%
  • Biofuels: 3.8%
  • Efficiency & low-carbon services: .4%
  • Wind: 43%
  • Solar: 25%
  • Biofuels: 17%
  • Efficiency & low-carbon services: 9%
  • Other renewables: 6%

Bombs or turbines?

Many feel that the U.S. is simply lacking the necessary funding to subsidize renewable resources. It is a hard pill to swallow when we look at the defense budget.
In China, for every $3 spent on the defense budget, $1 is spent on renewables. In the U.S., for every $41 spent on the defense budget, $1 is spent on renewables.

Economic incentives

Another distinguishing factor separating the renewable market of China from the U.S. is their key investment incentives. The U.S. incentives are geared more towards large businesses while China has made sure to include incentives for individuals and households.
In China, for wind energies, fixed fee-in tariffs are available. For solar, all rooftops and business buildings can have integrated photovoltaic subsidies. For all renewable energies, there are minimum standards and guaranteed purchase by utilities.
In the U.S., for wind and solar energies, there are production tax credits and investment tax credits. Power storage also provides a federal manufacturers tax credit. There are also federal loan guarantees for clean tech.

Future Growth

By 2016, installed clean energy for both countries is expected to increase. However, the U.S. only has a projected growth rate of 30% compared to China’s 106%.

What You Can Do About It

  • Call (don’t email) your state government rep.
    Your state government has the most power to create the kind of programs that spur job growth quickly, so if you’re only going to make one call, make it at the state government level, not federal. Get contact info at
  • Make sure your call counts.
    A staffer will most likely take your call. Tell them, “I’m a voter calling in support of creating stronger renewable energy incentives and programs in our state. I’ve heard that New Jersey and other states have created a lot of new jobs through clean energy incentives. I’d like similar programs in our state.”
  • Magnify your impact.
    Encourage your friends and family to make the call. Here’s a sample Facebook status: “I want more jobs created in the U.S., so I called state representatives in support of stronger clean energy incentives in our state. You should do this, too. Visit or for contact info.”
  • If you’re really fired up about this…
    You can also call your senators and state representatives in Washington D.C., repeating all the steps mentioned. To get those numbers, go to or call the main switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and ask for your state representative or congressperson.

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By Dave Llorens

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17 Responses to “Infographic: Why China is Kicking Our Ass in Clean Tech”

  1. Bob Koontz says:

    So I think I see that you are in favor of higher taxes and with the economy in the chute, why is that? This is the United States of America and we earn close to 10 times what our chineese counter part earns, I think. Why not just go do it yourself and quit asking me to help pay for your energy? I have paid for mine,you pay for yours. Lets cut taxes. If you want a community event why not just take contributions on here and then spread the wealth within the group? Lots of other interests do it. Why try to increase taxes? That Puzzles me?????????????????????

  2. Marlene Baldauf says:

    Did you know this???

  3. Kirsten Flynn says:

    For those who liked my previous post on green power competitiveness, here are the stats. nicely laid out.

  4. Laura Luehrmann says:

    Here’s part of the “China story” that rarely gets told. It includes the contradiction that China is at once, both one of the most polluted countries in the world and also the country making some of the most investments and gains in green energy.

  5. Claudio Monza says:

    non ci interessano i W ma i Wh!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Poi non dice che la maggior parte dell’energia proviene da diche che hanno fatto morti (171.000) o che sono molto osteggiate dai verdi (tre gole dice nulla?)

  6. Eric Dempster says:

    Power to the people (by this I mean family or individua), for and by the people. Do to power gen what micro computers did to mainframes.

  7. Andy Chen says:

    Wow. What irony.

  8. Caitlin Howland says:

    This is really cool. What is the time frame on this? Is it as of 2011?

  9. Barry Naughton says:

    This is very interesting, thanks for creating it. But some of it isn’t right. China’s energy consumption in 2010, according to Chinese official statistics (Statistical Abstract) is 91.7& from coal, oil and gas (in that order), miwch means 8.3% for everything else. So even if you’re including nuclear in renewable (!), there’s no way that China is at 15% or significantly surpasses the US’s 8%. And that’s the problem. It’s clear that China is putting much more into renewable, and so they really might kick our ass in the future. But it’s not at all clear yet that they’re getting more out of renewable, at least not yet. Stay tuned.

  10. Rich Brubaker says:

    China may be investing more money, but that should not be the sole determinant for “winning a race”

    The problem with the chart, and much of the analysis, is that it focuses on money spent and capacity built vs. actual production.

    It does not account for the well known fact that more than 50% of China’s wind farms are not producing any energy for the grid. ZERO. Or that much of their infrastructure has very short life spans. In short, it does not take into account (or credit the US) for the fact that much of China’s investment is wasted

  11. Kimberly Cruz says:

    A no-brainer for the U.S. C’mon!!

  12. Andrew James Campbell says:

    Very illuminating infographic, here.

  13. Tejas Goswami says:

    check if anyone interested…

  14. Kiwi Kid says:

    China population as of 2011: 1,344,130,000

    US population as of 2011: 311,591,917

    Population Ratio: China 4.3 to US 1

    China capacity 103 gW to US capacity 58 gW

    Renewables ratio 1.78:1

    Doesn’t look so good for China now does it?

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