- Everyone assumes the fourth industrial revolution will be about technology
- Actually, it will be centred around renewable energy and led by China
There have been three industrial revolutions in the past two centuries. The first, led by the British, was the rising of steam energy which allowed for mechanisation and was implemented widely by railways. The second, led by Americans, was electrical energy which gave rise to assembly lines with automobile manufacturing taking the lead. The third, also led by America, was the age of computing.
The fourth revolution is now in the hands of China, as the country is significantly ahead of the rest of the globe in renewable energy. As demand for renewable energy grows, the industry is able capitalise with economies of scale. Apart from the initial set up costs, renewable energy is technically free. This will ultimately make the poor more productive as they will be able to afford more energy.
China is advancing renewable energy from the sun and wind. And advances in wind energy give rise to more sustainable water harvesting.
China recently announced an investment of $361 billion in renewable energy by 2020.
The country is building massive sun farms in the Gobi Desert which will harvest copious amounts of sunlight. Just one farm is 6 300 acres.
China has also built the largest floating solar plant in Anhui province.
Wind is a strong contributor to renewable energy, although it is tricky to harvest as it can only be drawn in certain parts of the world.
At the end of 2017, Germans were paid to use electricity as a storm allowed Germany to harvest a significant amount of wind power. This goes to show how powerful wind energy can be.
China is ranked first globally in installed capacity for wind power. At the end of 2017 it had installed 19.7 GW of capacity – more than double any other country.
With wind comes water, and with water comes food. Hydroponics opens up a huge platform to transform unproductive agricultural areas to productive ones. The problem with desalination is the cost of energy required in the process. With free energy, the coastal areas will be able to access water cheaply, which will feed abundantly into the agricultural area and allow development.
This fourth industrial revolution will help to close the gap between developed and emerging markets. As China is investing in green it will not only leader the revolution but may also be the leader in closing the gap.