Green Hops: New Renewable Energy Targets, More Carbon Tax Chatter, Singapore-Nanjing Eco-city Announced

China’s energy intensity was down 2.9% in the first quarter of this year, reports the National Bureau of Statistics.  The decrease is based on a 6.1% growth in GDP measured against a 3.04% increase in energy consumption.  So remember this–despite and increased movement towards “decoupling”, energy consumption still rises as long as GDP rises.  Power consumption in the first quarter also dipped (by 4%), but the decrease in March (2%) was less than in January an Februrary (5.2%), suggesting that the economy may be starting to bottom out.

Fuels from Heaven

  • Wind to hit 100 to 150 GW by 2020
  • Solar to hit 10 to 20 GW by 2020
  • Renewable power to constitute 40% of electricty geneation by 2050

Wind targets to triple, may even quintiple! Anticipation is building up for the soon to be announced stimulus for renewable energy.  Analysts have their eyes peeled for the possibility of a revision in China’s long term renewable energy targets.  For wind and solar power, this stands at 30 GW and 1.8 GW, respectively.  But at current rates of development, 100 GW of wind by 2020 is probably achievable, and indications are 100 GW will be the new 2020 target.  Installed wind capacity is expected to grow 64% this year to hit 20 GW.  If China adds 8 GW a year from now till 2020, 100 GW will be surpassed, leading this report to speculate that the 2020 target may be raised to as much as 150 GW.

Northern central China will be the destination of many wind farms.  Meanwhile, Tianjin may be manufacturing hub that helps China’s wind industry lead that charge towards triple digit gigawattage as it boasts what is shaping up to be the world’s leading wind manufacturing industry cluster.  Vestas, which has a manufacturing presence in Tianjin, has launched a turbine model specifically for Chinese wind conditions.  The Danish company has begun sales of its V60-850 kW turbine, which has blade designs and temperature control systems to adapt to the tough winters in Inner Mongolia. The turbine is most effective in low and medium winds, which make up 75 percent of China’s unutilized onshore wind potential.

Solar to hit 20 GW by 2020?! As for solar, recent solar policy developments may have set China on course for 10 GW, or even 20 GW by 2020, remarks Wang Zhongying, assistant director at the NDRC’s Energy Research Institute and head of its Renewable Energy Development Centre.   As projected in my recent solar policy paper, polysilicon production is ramping up domestically.  This means lower PV panels prices and a steady march towards grid parity.

40% Renewable Electricity Standard by 2050? This was only mentioned in passing, and I have not seen this anywhere else, but it seems that 40% may be set as a long term target (i.e. 2050) for the proportion of renewable sources making up total electricity generation.  Sounds encouraging, but far off the 60+% that the Tyndall Center sees as necessary to stabilize the climate (see previous post).

China’s first biomass plant using sea buckthorn and carragna as feedstock will be established in Inner Mongolia.  It is projected to offset the bruning of 80,000 tons of coal annually.

Speaking of stimulus, Xinhua reports that China has. to date, allocated 23 billion yuan (3.37 billion US dollars) for energy saving, anti-pollution, ecological and environmental protection projects since the fourth quarter of last year:

Of the 23 billion yuan spending, 13 billion went to improving urban water treatment facilities, 4 billion yuan to pollution prevention projects on the Huaihe and other big rivers, 3.5 billion yuan to forest planting projects and the other 2.5 billion yuan to key energy saving projects across the country.

Carbon Regulation

Two recent news pieces on carbon regulation seem to be making a lot of chatter in the blogosophere.  I won’t dwell on the silly piece by Guardian that suggested China was considering carbon caps, because that has been adequately dispensed with by Elizabeth Balkan at NEEDigest.  The basic fact is that carbon intensity targets is nothing new; China already has a de facto carbon intensity target in its goal to reduce energy intensity by 20% from 2006 through 2010 (with coal sector consolidation at both the mine and power plant level, carbon intensity is probably decreasing faster than energy intensity).

The second piece of “news” is the announcement of possible carbon taxes on the cards.  This is not news, and as a loyal reader of this blog, this sounds a bit familiar to you doesn’t it?  Of course it does! We at GLF quoted Su Ming back last October (see last full paragraph of link) making the very same proclamations at the China Carbon Forum 2008 in Beijing:

It was thus heartening to hear Su Ming, the Deputy Director of the Fund Research Center of the Ministry of Finance, say at the forum that the central government is carefully studying the possible implementation of consumption-based VAT taxes (in addition to the production-based VAT taxes already in place), resource extraction taxes, environmental pollution taxes, carbon taxes, and environmentally-friendly government procurement schemes. (See also a previous post under sub-header “Green Taxes”.)

SNAP!  Where was the media then?   The two new pieces of insight is that (1) any carbon tax would target upstream fossil fuel companies, and that  (2) WWF Director of Global Climate Solutions Yang Fuqiang estimates (in the absence of any official guidance so far) that a carbon tax would be about 40 yuan per ton of carbon dioxide.  Not exactly the carbon price we need for meaningful change, as Elizabeth notes in her postChina Environmental Law‘s analysis that we should not expect any carbon tax enacted this year is probably right.

Meanwhile in Shanghai, more details emerge on the pilot Shanghai emissions trading scheme that was announced last year.

Fuels from Hell [and some land use tidbits]

2008 was a good year for dometic minerals propspecting.  According to the “Communiqué on Land and Resources of China 2008” published by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources, a total of 15 one hundred million-ton oil and gas reservoirs were discovered and identified in 2008, with 1.34 billion tons in newly-added proven geological oil reserves and 647.2 billion cubic meters in newly-added natural gas.  [The same communique says that arable land declined, albeit at a slower pace than the year before. Construction activities, natural disaster, conversion to ecological reserves and structural adjustments in the agro sector led to arable land losses of 3.7 million mu that were offset by gains of 3.4 million mu due to reclamation.  I wonder how the soil erosion problem figures in this net loss analysis.  A separate report speaks to a ten-year effort to reafforest 403 million mu of land, 103 millino of which was previously farmland.]

In spite of the increased domestic reserves, overseas exploration of oil, gas and minerals will be a priority overseas investment area.  No wonder then that China is cozying up to the likes of Angola and other resource-rich African nations.  The deep sea will also be another target of minerals prospecting.

Refined oil prices may be due for another imminent hike in what would be the second such hike this year as planners attempt to link such prices to the fluctuations of global crude oil prices.

China’s drive towards nucelar self-sufficiency marches on (Su Qin of State Energy Admnistration: “By 2020, China will have an independent nuclear power industry with the ability to build advanced nuclear plants and stipulate appropriate regulations and standards”). In progress: 24 new nuclear plants.   Among them is the first third-generation nuclear plant using technology from U.S.-based Westinghouse, in Zhejiang province (construction site pictured left).  Australian uranium suppliers are rubbing their hands in eager anticipation.  Hang on to your hard hats!

“Clean” Fuels from Hell

In a case of cleantech transfer acting like salmon (i.e. going in reverse direction), Xi’an Thermal Power Research Institute, a subsidiary of State-owned power developer China Huaneng Group, one of the “Big Five” will supply Houston, Texas-based Future Fuels with a two-stage pulverized coal pressure gasification technology. The technology is expected to be incorporated in Future Fuel’s 150 MW integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant to be built in 2010 in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, China’s largest coal-miner, the Shenhua Group, is looking into developing the country’s first carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at its coal-to-liquids (CTL) plant in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.  Speaking of CTL, Xinhua News recently featured an overview piece on the state of CTL in China, but fails to highlight some key environmental reasons–high greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption–that cause the government to halt of most CTL projects nationwide (Shenhua projects escaped the axe).

Air

In the wake of a report to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that China’s air quality situation is “grave,” the Ministry of Environmental Protection is initiating a regional cluster approach to tackling air pollution, starting with the three great economic-industrial hubs: the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.  The plan is likely to include regional caps on emissions and are expected to take effect from the beginning of the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-15).  This is welcome news for Pearl River Delta residents, who can’t be please about findings that more than half of their ecosystems are contaminated.  Beijing residents, on the other hand, are experiencing opposite fortunes, experiencing in April its cleanest air month for nine years.  Beijing is not resting on its laurels, extending a modified version of its road usage rules for vehicles that was employed during the Olympics.

Water, Hydropower and Wetlands

Water-scarce Ningxia will build a 84.38 million cubic meters underground reservoir in Yuanzhou District, Guyuan.

Shanghai will start building Asia’s largest silt treatment plant in 2010.

To process water from the Yangtze River that it will receive from the massive South-to-North diversion program, Beijing will build and expand 13 water treatment facilities by 2014 with a combined annual capacity of 1 billion cubic meters at a total cost of RMB 26 billion (USD 3.8 billion). Speaking of diversion programs, the longest water diversion tunnel to date, at 85.3 km long and 8 meters in diameter, has been competed in Liaoning.

Criticism is emerging that Chinese hydropower projects are producing “subprime carbon credits“, i.e. getting carbon credits even thought they fail to meet the “additionality” principle mandated by the UNFCCC clean development mechanism process.  Overly sensational headline, is my instinctive reaction.  In any case, hydropower marches on; some 50% of the Yangtze’s hydro resources will be tapped by 2020, and 60% by 2030, compared to 36% now.

A state appraisal of the 35.2-billion-yuan Xiaolangdi Water-Control Project on the Yellow River in Henan province is helping to improve the eco-system and environment downstream.

China will build its largest wetlands reservesthe Poyang Lake National Wetland Park–in Poyang County, Jiangxi Province.

Clean Cars

Two not so green trends: car sales reached a record high of 1.15 million units in April as the government’s stimulus plans apparently start to pay off, while the length of highways in China now total 60,300 km, ranking it second in the world (to the US, I presume).  Now lets go back to less depressing news…

China wants 500,000 “new energy” vehicles (hybrids, electric vehicles, etc.) to be produced this year and is implementing a $1.5 billion research subsidy plan over the next three years for automakers to improve their electric-vehicle technology.  This piece highlights the efforts of BYD, Chery, SAIC, FAW, Beiqin Foton, Harbin Hafei, Geely, Volkswagen,GM, Toyota and Nissan in the new energy vehicle space.  Zhejiang Wanxing Group is the latest player to the EV race.  The Renault-Nissan alliance, which is partnered with Better Place in various electric vehicle network projects around the world, plans to sell electric cars as early as 2011 and help develop an EV-charging network in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province.  BYD Auto has helped the local government of Shenzhen set up twenty 220-volt charging pillars in office and residential areas.  An interesting U.S.-based startup, Adura Systems, plans to sell modular series hybrid powertrains for buses in China. market. Frost & Sullivan estimates that China’s transition to electric vehicles will take a minimum of ten years.

Eco-Cities and Greenfrastructure

Singapore and their eco-city building itch are at it again, this time in Nanjing, in Jiansu province.  This project will span only 3 to 5 sq km, roughly a tenth of the size of the Tianjin eco-city project (see previous post) that the Singapore government is helping to build, and will be driven by different Singapore parties.  An earlier report linked the proposed Najing eco-city to a Singapore consortium of Yanlord Land Group, Surbana Corporation and Sembcorp Industries.  Small but welcomed news for a country that has just hit 45.7% urbanization.

China claims it has emerged as a world leader in ultra high-voltage transmission grid technologies, thanks in large part to the Jindongnan-Nanyang-Jingmen UHVAC transmission project, which is the world’s first 1000kv UHVAC transmission project.  The project was put into operation In January 2009, and “marks a breakthrough in the technology of long-distance, large-capacity and low-loss UHV power transmission.”

China’s largest manufacturing and R&D base for high-speed trains will be completed in June 2010 in the northeastern province of Jilin, courtesy of Changchun Railway Vehicle Co., Ltd, which produced China’s first underground train, magnetic levitation train and high-speed train. The RMB 2.5 billion base, will be capable of producing 500 cars for ordinary passenger trains, 800 cars for high-speed trains which run at a speed above 350 kilometers per hour and 800 cars for inter-city express trains above 120 kilometers per hour.

The first electrified railway on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau has opened.  As an indication of how well the railway industry has made off from the stimulus package, China Railway Group has bagged 11 construction contracts worth a total of RMB 22.65 billion, including major contracts for a line within Yunanan and another one connecting Nanjing and Hangzhou in Jiangsu province.

Local governments will be required to purchase more energy efficient products through new rules on compulsory green procurement that the State Council will push.

Corporate Social Repsonsibility

In an encouraging trend, significantly more Chinese corporations released CSR reports in 2008–190 compared to just 19 in 2006.

International Cooperation

International cooperation is the name of the game in this new era of climate diplomacy.  In the past month alone, there have been announcements that China will be collaborating with Switzerland on water resource management, with Mongolia on energy and infrastructure, with Taiwan on LEDs, with France on nuclear, with Russia on natural gas and nuclear, the UK on carbon capture and storage and the EU on energy efficiency.

Picture creditsSimple Blog on China (wind farm); Climate Change Foreign Policy Blog (IRS man weaving a carbon tax); China.org.cn (Sanmen nuclear plant site in Zhejiang), China.org.cn (grid)

Comments (4)

  1. Elizabeth Balkan May.8.2009@10:18 am Reply

    As if the last Guardian piece wasn’t enough to boil your blood, here’s the latest in nonsense journalism: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/may/06/china-seeks-climate-change-deal. But this one is not for me to refute… that’s your terrain now Julian, from within the the Beltway think tank safe zone.

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