Compared with US/Europe, China is using much less energy (per capita). For example, all the super-highways we’ve traveled on are not lit; more lights in buildings are fluorescent than in the US; and in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, most shops by our hotel turn off their lights and shutter their doors by 5pm. And a lot of traffic is still by foot or bicycle.
Of the renewable energy uses, I saw mostly hydro- and solar ones; and between these, solar is the most popular by far. Of the solar energy usages, the most prevalent is hot-water panels. Compared to photo-electric technologies favored in the west, solar-heating is definitely low-tech and low-budget, but it is very mature, and scales well.
View from our hotel room in Kunming. All those panels are for hot water, not electricity.
Solar-electric energy powers this SOS call box by the side of super-highway GZ65, near Kunming.
Hot-water panel on a Dai family’s bath-house.
A solar stove seen from the train near LongXi, GanSu province. Although it’s not easy to tell it apart from a satellite dish from the picture — one distinctive feature is the lack of a LNBF (a blob-looking thingy) near its focus, in real life it has a very distinct silvery shine.