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Making our infrastructure cleaner and more sustainable could add as little as 5 percent to upfront costs, which could be fully offset by lower operating costs. WRI Board member and former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón reveals four ways to unlock capital for low-carbon infrastructure.

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"No one's actually making money from coal-fired power plants in the United States right now," said David Crane at WRI's MindShare event. That may seem a strange sentiment coming from a man who led NRG Energy, one of America's biggest power companies, but Crane is far from the typical energy exec.

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Uruguay went from having virtually no wind generation in 2007 to installing the most wind per capita of any nation in 2014. New WRI research explores the country's smart use of climate finance, and offers lessons on how other nations can successfully transform their energy sectors.

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Large, private sector energy customers wanting to buy more renewable energy are already driving change in electricity markets by scaling up clean power delivered through the grid. More renewables in countries’ power grids will accelerate progress toward emissions-reduction targets put forth in Paris.

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There’s a growing gap between current investment in low-carbon energy and what’s needed to meet world demand while avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. The good news is there’s sufficient capital and investor interest to close much of this gap.

However, policies that encourage market certainty and level the playing field between different energy sources are needed to attract the volume of investment required, according to a special International Energy Agency (IEA) report, the World Energy Investment Outlook, released this month.

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The world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters—the United States and China—have been forging a growing bond in combating climate change. Just last week, President Obama and President Xi made a landmark agreement to work towards reducing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas. And both the United States and China are leading global investment and development of clean energy. The United States invested $30.4 billion and added 16.9 GW of wind and solar capacity in 2012. China invested $58.4 billion and added 19.2 GW in capacity.

U.S.-China cooperation on clean energy was the topic of discussion at an event last week at the Woodrow Wilson International Center’s China Environment Forum. Experts from the World Resources Institute and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) looked at this cooperation from a seldom-discussed viewpoint – China’s renewable energy investments in the United States.

China’s Growing Overseas Investments in Renewable Energy

As new WRI analysis shows, Chinese companies have made at least 124 investments in solar and wind industries in 33 countries over the past decade (2002 – 2011). The United States is the number one destination of these investments, hosting at least eight wind projects and 24 solar projects. The majority of the investments went into solar PV power plant and wind farm development, while a few investments went into manufacturing or sales support.

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It’s well-known that China ranks first in the world in attracting clean energy investment, receiving US$ 65.1 billion in 2012. But new analysis from WRI shows another side to this story: China is increasingly becoming a global force in international clean energy investment, too. In fact, the country has provided nearly $40 billion dollars to other countries’ solar and wind industries over the past decade.

This investment is consistent with a broader trend of major emerging economies like China, India, and Brazil becoming important sources of global overseas invest¬ments. WRI’s new working paper, China’s Overseas Investments in the Wind and Solar Industries: Trends and Drivers, helps to better understand China’s renewable energy investments overseas, as well as the policy and market forces that drive them.

China’s Overseas Wind and Solar Investments, By the Numbers

According to our research, Chinese companies have made at least 124 investments in solar and wind industries in 33 countries over the past decade (2002 – 2011), more than half of which were made in 2010 and 2011 (see Figure 1). Despite some gaps in the data that prevent us from generalizing about all of China’s wind and solar investments, we learned that:

  • Of the 54 investments for which financial data were available, the cumulative amount invested came to nearly US$40 billion.
  • China invested roughly US$10 billion in 16 wind projects and US$27.5 billion in 38 solar investments.
  • Of 53 investments with capacity data available, the cumulative installed capacity added was nearly 6,000 MW.
  • The majority of investments were in electricity generation. Several investments were made in manufacturing facilities and to establish sales and marketing offices.
  • Most of the investments were in developed countries. A huge amount went to the United States, as well as Germany, Italy, and Australia. A handful of developing countries—including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ethiopia—also attracted multiple investments.

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