China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year.
China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants.
These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China.
“Most of the energy equipment will carry a brass plate, ‘Made in China’,” said K. K. Chan, chief executive of Nature Elements Capital, a private equity fund in Beijing that focuses on renewable energy.
President Obama, in his State of the Union speech last week, sounded an alarm that the United States was falling behind other countries, especially China, on energy.
“I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders and I know you don’t either,” he told Congress.
The United States and other countries are offering incentives to develop their own renewable energy industries, and Obama called for redoubling American efforts. Yet many Western and Chinese executives expect China to prevail in the energy-technology race.
Multinational corporations are responding to the rapid growth of China’s market by building big, state-of-the-art factories in China.
Vestas of Denmark has just erected the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturing complex here in northeastern China, and transferred the technology to build the latest electronic controls and generators.