By Juan Cole / Informed Comment

The South China Post reports some incredible figures about the profitability of China’s wind energy companies. A new study by the Bank of China International (BOCI) is foreseeing profits of 25 to 64 percent for the rest of 2016.

The reason for this optimism? The government is committed to stringing no less than eight new ultra-high-voltage (UHV) power lines across the country that will likely mainly transmit electricity from wind farms.

China intends to get between 25% and 33% of its electricity from wind by 2030, i.e. in only 14 years! And by then it intends to be off coal entirely. If Beijing can pull this off, it will literally change the world (for the better).

Moreover, the Chinese government has put in regulations in eight provinces and 3 autonomous regions requiring that wind and solar be used to generate electricity for a certain number of hours each day.

Shares in the sector have increased in price 67 percent since January.

China is building roughly two new wind turbines every hour. In part, this wind power frenzy is driven by a desire to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But in part, it is a response to very substantial discontents in Chinese cities with air pollution, which is damaging the health of families and children.

Press in the US tied to oil and gas interests made a lot of noise about a report in September that estimated that in the first quarter of 2016, 25% of China’s new wind turbines were idle. But that was because the UHV lines hadn’t reached them yet. Even just by the end of 2016 the BOCI estimates that under-utilization will fall by as much as 9 percent, as the UHV lines are extended. Wind farms can be built really quickly and relatively inexpensively and once they are built the fuel is free. So if China builds out the farms even before they can be connected to the new UHV grid, what difference would that make? They’re going to be built anyway over time so it is just a matter of which year’s budget they go on.

Moreover, the experience, know-how and manufacturing capacity that Chinese firms like SANY Heavy Energy are gaining is turning into exports and projects abroad, as well. SANY has huge wind turbines that generate 2 megawatts of power each, and has just sold a batch to the United States. It also has prospects in South Africa, and is making a $3 billion investment in India, with total megawattage of 2,000 MW, i.e. 48 million kilowatt hours a year.

The backward and often scientifically illiterate US Congress can barely bring itself to allow a tax write-off for wind turbines each year, disrupting the industry here with uncertainty (even though it gives big tax breaks to oil and gas companies). If they aren’t careful, they’ll give away this whole global industry to China.

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