China’s vast offshore wind resources will propel renewable energy industry

Pictet's Kiran Nandra-Koehrer says China’s 'electricity mix is changing rapidly'

Typhoons off the coast of China could propel the region’s renewable energy industry, with wind power expected to rise five-fold in the coming decades, according to Pictet’s head of emerging market equities management Kiran Nandra-Koehrer.

As the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China has a tough task ahead in meeting Beijing’s ambitious plan to peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060, but a note written by Nandra-Koehrer said China’s “electricity mix is changing rapidly” due to its wind resources.

The country has had the largest wind market by installed capacity since 2010 but to date, China’s main wind resources are based inland in areas such as Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.

Pictet’s Nandra-Koehrer highlighted offshore areas such as near Guangdong are “rich in wind resources thanks to frequent typhoons which typically pass through the western province in July to October”, and, as a result, China’s wind power industry will experience “considerable growth in the coming years”.

She also highlighted research from Chinese University of Hong Kong shows the intensity of typhoons around the South China Sea has been steadily increasing in the past 40 years, and that by the end of the century typhoons’ average wind speed could strengthen by 6% or 7.2km per hour, with an average typhoon lasting five hours, or more than 50%, longer.

China has 18,000 km of coastline and 3m km of sea available for offshore wind installations, but manufacturing hub Guangdong is aiming to be the first province to reach offshore wind electricity-pricing grid parity with traditional feedstocks, such as coal, by 2025. This parity refers to a point where wind power is generated unsubsidised at a levelised cost to fossil fuel energy, Nandra-Koehrer said.

“While typhoons can cause problems if particularly severe, they may be a blessing for China’s renewable energy industry,” she said.