If China’s Green Leap Forward fails for whatever reason, it won’t be because of the lack of cash. Generally speaking, it has never been better to be a clean tech entrepreneur or project developer. Investment dollars are pouring in globally from hedge funds, private equity and venture capital funds, multinational corporations and development banks. Take these recent developments, for example:
- The clean development mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol, for example, provides the much needed financial lifeblood to take IRRs of wind farm projects over the “hurdle rate.” There has been some criticism about the use and abuse of CDM by some camps, such as a front page article by The Guardian, but I thought China Environmental Law’s response was spot on. China is by far the world’s biggest market for CDM projects, accounting for a whopping 73% of transactions in 2007. Hong Kong joins the CDM fray as well.
- Sycamore Ventures and the China Association of Resources Comprehensive Utilization (CARCU), which operates under the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, are to launch a US$ 1 billion dollar Greenstar fund to invest largely in China’s environmental sector.
- The World Bank will provide additional $440 million in loans for three energy efficiency projects. This will constitute one-third of the bank’s loan portfolio in 2008 to China. The three projects consist of energy efficiency financing, desulfurization in Shandong and infrastructure in medium-sized cities in Liaoning.
All this is not to say that China is reliant on external sources of funding. In fact, according to a Reuters report, Gao Guangsheng of the National Development and Reform Commission expects China to fund 90% of its renewable energy development by domestic sources of funding. Separately, Don Ye, founding partner of Tsing Capital’s China Environment Fund, for seven years, and still, China’s only fund 100% dedicated to clean tech investments told The Green Leap Forward, “There’s a trend to self sufficiency both in terms of talent as well as investments. By the end of this year, we expect to see quite a few RMB-denominated investment funds come to the market.”
Provincial and municipal governments are also investing big in renewable energy. The northeastern municipality of Tianjin has committed to invest RMB 200 million a year into mergers and pre-IPO deals in solar, wind and energy storage businesses. The southwestern province of Sichuan is pushing solar development in a big way, as evidenced by last weekend’s Western China PV Conference held in the province’s biggest city, Chengdu (成都). The governments of Chengdu and adjacent Shuang Liu (双流) county, together constituting the aviation hub of China, have now have established the Chengdu (Shuang Liu) Photovoltaic Industrial Park with the goal of becoming China’s “solar PV valley.” I’ll write more about the Western PV Conference in my next post.
There will be occasional bottlenecks to capital availability. Last month, the central government raised bank reserve ratios yet again to reduce liquidity in the market so as to combat inflation. The series of bank reserve ratio increases has resulted in a tightening in the availability of bank loans for renewable energy projects (although these have tend to affect foreign project developers, which are typically last in line, more than the major state-owned enterprise developers, which get priority access to capital) . But such a phenomenon does not detract from the favorable patchwork of investment policies enacted by the central, provincial and municipal governments for clean energy. If I were a betting man, my money would be on the red (the color of RMB 100 notes) to continue chasing the green (energy).