Chinese people want renewable energy more than anyone, but nobody’s selling it to them

Talk about a market opportunity.
Talk about a market opportunity.
Image: Reuters/Aly Song
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It turns out a staggering number of Chinese people are willing to pay more for renewable energy. But businesses that sell green power to consumers, prolific elsewhere, haven’t yet got a single foothold in the biggest market on earth.

A survey of 3,000 Chinese city-dwellers by Ipsos Mori, a polling company, found that a massive 97.6% of them would like to buy clean power. Of those, over 90% would be willing to pay extra for it. The poll was commissioned by the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Their enthusiasm is in sharp contrast to the more lukewarm responses in countries where both dedicated providers and mainstream energy companies offer green-energy packages. Though not directly comparable, polls by other companies found a much lower willingness to pay for renewables in countries like the US and the UK.

Energy in China is state-controlled. The country has become the top investor in new renewable power building in the last three years, but there is as yet no direct connection between what people pay for and the energy they receive.

The big reason for the enthusiasm in China is air pollution. The massive burning of coal that has propelled China’s growth over the last decades has turned much of the air of its cities into a dense, dangerous smog. Over 90% of respondents said that “green power” could reduce air pollution. Breathing it every day, they’re willing to put their money where their face mask is.