Its been a while since we’ve had an extensive discussion of China’s solar market. Here, we catch up with some of the major the developments in this space over the past half year or so. A new US-China dynamic highlighted by two-large scale projects, policy action by provincial-level governments, and lots of activity by Chinese solar poster child Suntech, and more!
Let’s kick off with this pretty cool video created by ClimateWorks:
Now, onto recent developments:
Going Big with the Stars and Stripes
Google-backed eSolar, a three-year old Californian solar start-up, has signed an agreement to provide technology and assistance to Penglai Electric, a privately-owned Chinese electrical power equipment manufacturer, to build a series of solar thermal power plants totaling at least 2 gigawatts over the next 10 years (see pictured right example of an eSolar installation). The first project, a 92-megawatt solar power plant, will be built this year and located in the 66-square-mile Shaanxi New Energy and Industrial Park in Yulin city, Shaanxi province of Northern China. The region has become a hot spot for renewable energy, with the 2,000-megawatt First Solar project planned 60 miles to the north in Inner Mongolia. China Huadian Engineering Co. will lead the construction process. At completion, China Shaanxi Yulin Huayang New Energy Co. will own and operate the first 92 MW plant. According to Todd Woody, eSolar already manufactures its heliostat arrays in China, and under the terms of the agreement with Penglai it will also build its power plant receivers there. The solar thermal power plants, using technology distinct from photovoltaics which currently dominate China’s solar power market, will consist of mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sun rays to power a steam turbine. eSolar’s technologies, in particular, boasts ease of transportation and installment, modularity, scalability, redundancy, and resilience against wind tear.
This announcement mark the first large-scale commercial effort to develop CSP in China, something that has been on somewhat of a slow track for two main reasons; (1) Limits of water availability: How eSolar and its Chinese partners deal with the issue of the water-energy nexus (I precisely highlighted concentrated solar thermal as a technology that would run up to limits of water availability in a previous post, “Charting China’s Water Future: Closing China’s water availbility gap results in $21 billion in net savings“) since t Read the full story
A look at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s analysis on the energy conservation programs in China’s current five-year plan. For those of you in Beijing on Jan 20, you may listen to Dr. Mark Levine present these very findings at the Beijing Energy & Environment Roundtable (open free to public!). Details here.
Last month, I had the unique opportunity to gather with some of the top U.S-based thinkers on Chinese energy and climate policy. Participants hailed from World Resources Institute’s ChinaFAQs group of experts. Since it was a closed door session, I can’t spill everything that was discussed, but I did get permission to share what I thought was the most fascinating segment of the day’s programs. Mark Levine and Lynn Price of Lawrence Berkeley National Labs’ China Energy Group, presented a fascinating array of findings on how China is progressing on its energy conservation goals in its current five-year plan (2006 to 2010). The study, conducted by LBNL’s China Energy Group (in collaboration with Tsinghua University and McKinsey) analyzed China’s efforts in seven energy conservation programs–the Ten Key Projects, Enforcement of New Buildings Energy Standards, Building Retrofits, Top-1000 Energy-Consuming Enterprises, Structural Adjustments, Small Plant Closures, and Appliance Standards. A recent article in Science Daily also covered LBNL’s work in this study.
Lynn explained in an exclusive interview with The Green Leap Forward, the motivations for conducting such a study:
LBNL’s China Energy Group focuses on end-use energy demand, so we are always interested to learn more about the details behind the overall numbers. During this Five-Year Plan, China has been reporting remarkable progress in reducing energy use per unit of economic growth, but the question in our minds was how were they achieving this? With this project, we set out to really understand the end-use policies and programs that China established and how they were or were not contributing to the overall reduction in energy intensity.
The following slides, which are informative and comprehensive, were what was used in Mark and Lynn’s presentation. I highly recommend going through them in entirety.
LBNL’s findings is summed up best by Mark, lead author of the study and founder of the China Energy Group, who told The Green Leap Forward , also in an exclusive interview: Read the full story
Charting China's Water Future: Closing China's water availbility gap results in $21 billion in net savings
A look at a new report by McKinsey that analyzes the economics of water solutions in developing countries. It finds that in China, 55 different solutions exist to close its imminent water availability gap that actually results in a net savings, rather than expenditure, of $21 billion by 2020.
There has been a wave of water price hikes across various cities and regions across China over the past year. Most recently, Beijing raised residential water rates by 8 percent, as we blogged about yesterday. But there have also been proposed or implemented water price increases earlier this year in Shanghai, Lanzhou (Gansu province) and certain cities in Heilongjiang, and others, despite fears of inflation. Getting the prices right, many seem to agree, is an important ingredient in managing scarcity so that water is allocated to their higher value use. And as we noted yesterday as well, higher water rates encourages new investment in water supply and treatment infrastructure. But how one goes about getting these prices right is a topic of debate because a pure-economics approach is either met with the concern that the lower-income folks are disproportionately affected, or opposed by those who take the absolute position that is a public good. Differential pricing–where users who use less water pay a lower rate, any heavier users pay a higher rate–is generally considered fair, but such a tiered water pricing structure has been slow to catch on because of the practical difficulty of drawing the boundaries of price levels that would be considered fair by the general public (I suspect thought that with electricity price reforms recently announced that will adopt such progressive tiered pricing structures, we should see more of this in water in the future).
McKinsey, by now almost everyone’s favorite climate number cruncher, released a report last month called Charting Our Water Future: Economic Frameworks to Inform Decision-Making, in which it unveiled its Water Availability Cost Curve, analogous to its not famous carbon abatement cost curve. The report focuses on the four ‘BASIC’ countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) and aims to accomplish three things: First, to paint the supply-demand picture for water from now till 2020; second to present its economic analysis of a menu of options to enhance water availability to make up for water supply deficit; and third to explore the implementation challenges of sustainable water management policy through the lenses of institutions and stakeholders. The report is a very interesting read, but thick. The Green Leap Forward has reviewed it and if you are specifically interested in the China bits, you are in luck, because that it is just those bits that rest of this blog post will summarize…
China’s Water Supply Deficit
Click image to enlarge. Source: Charting Our Water Future, McKinsey
China’s Water Demand
- Agriculture will remain the dominant sector for water demand, Agriculture accounts for 65% of Read the full story
A news round up of energy and environment news in China over the past 4 weeks or so, sans analysis.
Northern China was swept with a harsh cold snap that over northern China over the weekend. Beijing, for its part, experienced its largest snowfall in six decades, a lowest temperatures in four decades (at minus 16 degrees Centigrade!!!). The cold surge has created an unwelcome spike in energy demand at a time where energy demand is already taking on an upward trend as the national economy shows signs of recovering lost ground. The heavy snow has also disrupted food transportation logistics, creating a squeeze in vegetable supply in urban centers and upward pressure on food prices. The only consolation out of this white mess is that Beijing meteorological authorities have publicly acknowledged that climate change may be the cause of such extreme weather events, providing further testimony that the Chinese bureaucracy really “gets it” when it comes to the urgency of the climate issue.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has approved an amendment to the Renewable Energy Law of 2006 that clarifies rules, already in existence in the original 2006 law, that require grid companies to purchase all the power produced by renewable energy generators. Power enterprises refusing to buy power produced by renewable energy generators would be fined up to an amount double that of the economic loss of the renewable energy company. The amended law also clarifies how renewable energy projects will be financed by requiring the government to set up a special fund to be managed by the State Council for renewable energy research, financing of rural clean energy projects, building of independent power systems in remote areas and islands, and building of information networks to exploit renewable energy. A good Chinese piece that elaborates on the nuances of the amendments can be found here. The full text of the amended renewable energy law in Chinese is available here.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has released a detailed list of renewable energy projects receiving government subsidies in the first half of 2009.
China has climbed up the wind installation rankings one position surpassing Spain. After adding about 8 GW of installed capacity in 2009, its approximately 20 GW now ranks it third in the world (Chinese only) behind the United States and Germany. Read the full story
Happy New Year! Hope you are are staying warm, especially for those of you in northern China stuck in the worse winter storm in six decades.
Let’s kick off the new year with yet another Top Ten list, taking a look back at the best blog posts on GLF in 2009. Last time, we attempted to select the top five posts of 2008 but ended up with seven or eight. So for 2009, we’ll attempt to broaden the selection to the Top Ten. As before, the selection is non-scientific and based on a combination of tracked page views (thank you, Google Analytics!) and the author’s favorites. Unlike the last time, which was in no particular order, I have attempted to rank this list in order of significance:
1. Eco-infrastructure: Letting Nature Do the Work (Feb 27). Almost a white paper that explores lots of theoretical concepts and culminates in a set of 9 principles of what eco-communities (notice I avoid the phrase “eco-cities”) should embody. This post stood out as my most fun to write (I love bridging the theoretical to pracitcal), but also turned out to be the single most visited post that was published in 2009. (Of course, this metric is not perfect as it discriminates against posts that go up later in the year, and hence have less expsoure–this is why the Top Ten ranking is not based purely on number of hits.)
2. China’s Climate Progress by the Numbers (Jun 4). This piece, which reads like a glorified edition of Green Hops providing a comprehensive overview of many of China’s national clean energy policies, help put me on the map, so to speak, in the DC China climate/energy policy community.
3. China in Copenhagen Series (Dec). Not so much a single post, but a collection of detailed posts, most of it written by guest bloggers Angel Hsu and her team from Yale University who were on the ground in Copenhagen tracking the Chinese delegation. Their almost daily coverage and in depth discussion of the nuances of the Chinese climate position sent GLF daily hits soaring to record heights in December. Thank you Angel and company!
4. China to adopt “binding” goal to reduce CO2 emissions per unit GDP by 40 to 45% of 2005 levels by 2020 (Nov 26). In terms of content, the title says it all. I am particularly proud of this 3,300 word post because I managed to get this up within hours of the announcement, which accounted for it being one of the most visited posts for the year.
5. Safety is your responsibility and MINE: The Heilongjiang coal mine disaster in context (Nov 25). This tragedy, the largest in two years, underscores the point that China continues to pay a heavy price for their reliance on coal.
6. Deconstructing China’s Energy Intensity–A Lesson in Fuzzy Math (Aug 11). This guest post by John Romankiewicz took a critical look at the numbers behind China’s energy intensity performance over the recent years…with some very interesting and original findings.
7. China’s New Water Efficiency Targets (and Implications for Food and Energy) (Feb 17). On the food-water-energy nexus, one of my favorite issues that I will hopefully be writing more about soon.
8. How Did China Fare in Copenhagen? A Critical Analysis by Someone Not in the Room (Dec 23). A post-mortem of how China did in the Copenhagen climate negotiations. In a word–well, which is not necessarily great news for global climate cooperation. This is kind of part of the whole “China in Copenhagen” series in #3 as well, but I set it apart as its own because this consists entirely of GLF’s original analysis, which sets itself apart from the other posts in the series that came mostly from guest bloggers.
9. Dawn of a New Era: The Gansu Solar Concession and Landmark Solar Roofs Program (Mar 27). This post described new incentive policies that marked the beginning of a new era on the Chinese solar industry. After years of manufacturing solar photovoltaic panels almost exclusively for overseas markets, China is now getting serious about deploying them domestically. The hot interest in China’s solar industry led to high score on the blog counter for this particular post, and others like it, such as this and this.
10. Announcements of U.S.-China Cooperation Create a Path to Copenhagen Success (Nov 22). This list would not be complete without a the story on how Read the full story