Green Hops: BYD Auto, Algae, Green Bricks

BYD Auto/ Warren Buffet Update. Seems like the investment of Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings in Shezhen-based BYD Auto is not just a bet on electric vehicles, but also on the collaboration between MidAmerican and BYD to develop “rapid charge batteries” for electrical grid systems to serve as energy storage for renewable but intermittent power such as wind and solar, revealed MidAmerican’s chairman, David Sokal, at a press conference earlier this week in Hong Kong. (I have argued before in my solar blog how grid-tied energy storage solutions are the key to a clean electricity revolution.) Elsewhere, it appears more definitive that BYD’s entry into the Israeli market will be facilitated by Clal Industries and Investments, a unit of conglomerate IDB Development. Clal will start importing BYD’s electric vehicles into Israel next year. Such developments have apparently caught the eyes of Portland’s city officials, who are trying to woo BYD to start make America’s greenest city its North American hub.

Post-Olympic Traffic Measures Draw Mixed Reactions. As smog re-envelopes Beijing, the capital is reinstating a modified set of traffic measures to curb the growth of auto emissions that will, among other things, ban corporate and private cars from taking to the roads one day per week depending on their license plate number. Xinhua reports mixed reception to the measures, with some contemplating purchasing a second car, and others more astutely observing that “to ban should not be the ultimate way to ease Beijing’s traffic woes…Instead, our city should be better planned and the road network better designed.” It seems, however, that high oil prices and newly increased car taxes have had their effect in muting auto sales nationwide.

Green Bricks in Sichuan. China Energy Conservation Investments Corporation (CEIC) is starting construction of a RMB500 million, 26 acre plant producing 400 million gangue-shale sintering bricks per year in Pengzhou, Sichuan. Such bricks boast superior insulation qualities over standard bricks and require less energy to produce. CECIC, organizationally subordinate to the State Council’s State Property Management Commission, is a 20 year old national-level investment company in the energy conservation and environmental protection sector. It has more than 60 subsidiaries and 10,000 employees in China.

Suntech Goes West. Chinese solar giant Suntech has made a dramatic push into the U.S. solar market with its acquisition of commercial solar integrator startup EI Solutions and the formation of Gemini Solar, a joint venture with solar financier MMA Renewables to develop and finance large-scale solar projects that are 10MW or larger. Suntech also says it will be expanding its dealer network across the U.S. and hopes to triple its sales in the U.S. by 2009.  In other solar developments, Kunming, the capital city of the southern province of Yunnan, is setting sights on becoming a solar hub.

Shanghai Alagae Bloom. Shanghai Jun Ya Yan Technology Development and Arizona-based PetroSun have entered into a joint venture to build a US$40 million algae farm in China. The oil produced by the algae will be refined into biodiesel, ethanol and other commercial products. Under the agreement, PetroSun will license its technology to the JV while Ju Ya Yan will provide the capital. [Update Oct 8:  Given PetroSun's unproven track record, can they deliver this time?]

Getting Coal Feet. In the wake of a string of coal mine disasters nationwide (e.g. Yunnan, Heilonjiang and Henan), Shanxi province announced that it plans to improve mining safety and half the number of mines in its province from 2,840 to 1,414 by 2010.  Industry consolidation will be encouraged so that there will eventually be “two or three mining giants producing more than 100 million tons of coal per year and three to five companies that will produce more than 50 million tons per year, so that 75 percent of the coal output is churned out by major groups.” Certainly, the timing of such announcement was made more palatable on news that coal reserves in China have hit new highs after a summer of coal supply shortages that saw blackouts in various Chinese cities.

High-Level Climate Change Talks. Technology transfer will be the subject of a high-level climate change summit organized by China and the UN to be held in Beijing on November 7-8. Expect technology transfer, and in particular, the responsibility of developed countries to facilitate technology transfer to developing countries, to be a key agenda item on China’s climate change policy as international climate talks reach a critical phase. China lobbed the idea of an international climate change mitigation technology transfer fund in the December 2007 Bali climate talks and the idea is getting some traction amongst international policy makers.  Meanwhile, Germany is ceasing direct development financial aid to China and instead hopes to concentrate on cooperation with Beijing in environmental protection and clean energy issues in an advisory capacity.

Duke Law Profiles The Green Leap Forward. Finally, my Alma mater has profiled me and this blog in its quarterly environmental law newsletter (starting on page 4).

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