China surges forward in renewable energy research

Increasing lead over US and Europe may raise questions over who controls future of green technology

China is pulling ahead of Europe and the US in renewable energy research, prompting questions about the geopolitical implications of it’s becoming dominant in such technology.

According to figures from Elsevier’s Scopus database, China overtook the collective output of European Union nations in 2017 on energy research related to renewables, sustainability and the environment.

Its total 2017 output of 13,000 papers represented a growth rate of 260 per cent since 2012, when it trailed both EU countries and the US. The data show that the US published almost half as much as China in 2017 – 7,600 publications. EU countries produced almost 12,300 papers.

China’s increasing focus on renewable energy was highlighted in a major report published earlier this year by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

China’s growing research influence in renewable energy goes beyond the sheer volume of publications.

It says that although China still had a major dependency on fossil fuels, no country has put itself in a better position to become the world’s renewable energy superpower”.