Green power generation and the evolution of the Chinese electricity industry, 1880 to the present

Shi, Lin (2023) Green power generation and the evolution of the Chinese electricity industry, 1880 to the present. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Climate change urgently calls for fundamental changes in the way we generate electricity. As the world’s largest electricity generator and the biggest greenhouse gas emitter, China has pledged to decarbonise its power system. The success or failure of its efforts to rapidly accelerate the deployment of renewables will have immense implications for the global green transition. How might China meet its energy needs using green energies? This is the question this thesis takes up. This thesis uses mixed methods to address change through time as means to understand where China is now in terms of energy and where it might go next.

This thesis begins by applying Hughes’s system approach to investigate the evolution of China’s power system from its origins in the 1880s to the current green transition. The findings show that the Chinese power system originated in wars, was built by the Western-educated elites, embedded with the socialist-style gained from Soviet assistance, and directed by the central state’s political and economic principles. As a late developer, the case of China indicates the importance of human capital and that political, economic and educational openness are necessary conditions for late development.

The thesis then focuses on the subnational political economy of the power system’s green transition through an in-depth case study. The findings of a neo-Gramscian analysis demonstrate the dynamic processes and evolving power relations of the local electricity industry’s green transition. The results point out that the rivalling coalitions of distinct economic interests – the established coalfired power historical bloc and the young renewable energy firms – were particularly central to the process.

The final themed chapter examines whether it paid to adopt renewable energies in Chinese electricity generation firms from 2005 to 2017. The quantitative results show that adopting renewable energy positively impacts corporate profitability. Profitability is more stable and increases faster in firms with a higher share of renewable energies. Qualitative investigations reveal that the state-owned generators now strive for profits rather than scale, and private generators prioritise innovation and political prestige over profitability.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Supervisor's Name: Stokes, Professor Ray and Tranmer, Professor Mark
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83519
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2023 10:23
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2023 10:23
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83519

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