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By Julian Wong Jan.31.2013
In: uncategorized

Calvin Quek: China's energy plan on PM2.5 and water-energy nexus is "significant new thinking"

I had the chance to catch up with Calvin Quek, Head of Sustainable Finance at Greenpeace East Asia based in Beijing, and also the former executive director for the Beijing Energy Network, to discuss the recently announced 12th Five Year Energy Development Plan.  See also previous post on this topic.

Calvin Quek of  Greenpeace East Asia

GLF:  First of all congratulations, I saw that photo spread [link here] of you and your Greenpeace colleagues and, I must say, you are looking pretty hip and fashionable these days!

CQ: Thanks, thanks, what can I say, I’m just trying to keep up with you, and green is the new black.

GLF: Well I was just kidding really. But let’s get serious. Last week, the China’s State Council unveiled its overall 12th Five-Year Energy Development Plan. First of all, why is this five year plan that supposedly covers the five year period from 2011 to 2015 released in 2013? Isn’t that kind of late?

CQ:  It does seem odd. The public release of this 12 FY Energy Plan took significantly longer, coming out 24 months into the 12th five-year period (2011 -2015), compared to the 11th Five Year Energy Plan, which was released 16 months into the 11th five-year period (2006 – 2010).To me, this suggests that the new Plan required greater and deeper rounds of consultations among various stakeholders.

It is also worth to point out that this overarching Plan is designed to encompass previously released sub-sector industry energy plans such as Solar Power (Feb 2012) (), Coal Power (Mar 2012),Wind Power (Sept 2012) and Emission Reduction & Energy Savings (Aug 2012), which themselves, given the increasingly complexity and size of China’s energy sub-sectors required stronger coordination across various government departments. Thus, the overall energy plan, which encompasses the sub-sector plans may have been delayed as a consequence. Read the full story

By Julian Wong Jan.22.2013
In: uncategorized

Green Hops: Aniline Spill; 50 GW Renewables Target; Nukes Resume

“Green Hops,” our periodic newsy updates of energy and environmental developments concerning China resumes.  Anora Wang and Jenny Tang contributed research and summaries to this edition.

Hundreds of workers were mobilized to clean up an aniline-affected site in Shanxi province on Jan. 8.

In this edition:
1. WATER: Aniline leak in Shanxi on Dec. 31 affects neighboring province.
2. ENERGY POLICY:    National Energy Conference targets almost 50GW of renewables to be added in 2013
3. AIR: National policy to scale up coal-fired plant denitrification tariff
4. COAL:  Eradication of coal-electricity dual-pricing system affects market
5. NUCLEAR: China resumes nuclear ambitions with “fourth generation” technology
6. SOLAR: Chinese Gov Vows $2B in subsidies as Overcapacity Plagues Industry
7. NATURAL GAS: Conoco Hunts for Shale Gas in China
8. NATURAL GAS:  More reserves found as successful exploration tenders announced
9. INVESTMENT: Brazil Taps China’s State Grid for Energy Project
10. GRID: China’s Electrical Grid Freeze UP
11. WATER: Danjiakou City economy suffering due to water pollution control
12. WATER: Beijing Tap Water getting worse, Expert says
13. WATER: Nestle Taps China Water Thirst as West Spurns Plastic
14. GOVERNANCE:  88 Environmental impact assessment agencies penalized by MEP
15. RAIL:  NDRC approves 840 bln yuan in metro lines
16. CARBON EMISSIONS:  Carbon intensity drops 3.5% in 2012; but 2011 witnessed record level emissions in first ever GHG bulletin

1. WATER: Aniline leak in Shanxi on Dec. 31 affects neighboring province.
The other big pollution story in the past month aside from “airpocalypse” concerned a chemical plant in Changzhi Cit, Shanxi Province that was reported to have leaked 38.7 tons of aniline into Zhanghe River (漳河) from a broken industrial pipeline on January 5th.  The leak was believed to have begun no later than Dec. 31 when workers discovered the situation.  Leaked aniline traveled along the Zhanghe River and reached reservoirs in neighboring cities including Handan, a city in Hebei Province with over 1 million residents.  Handan shut down part of its municipal water supply system on Jan. 5th and at least 15% of city population was still under impact on Jan. 6th.  Areas in Henan Province were also affected, as Zhanghe River is a tri-provincial major stream that flows through Shanxi, Hebei, and Henan.  30 tons of aniline were contained at nearby reservoirs after the leak was reported. [People's Daily] [Xinhua] [] [Sina English] Read the full story

By Julian Wong Jan.15.2013
In: uncategorized
1 comment

"Beyond Index" - Can 'Airpocalypse' be China's 'Silent Spring'?

News over the past five days in many parts of northern China have centered around the unprecedented air pollution shrouding several northern cities, including the capital.  The “Airpocalypse,” so dubbed by micro-bloggers, has elicited a strong, unambiguous response frot the public and the media – causing many to call a spade a spade by casting away euphemisms like fog in favor of more candid descriptors like smog and pollution.  It has also inspired this poignant music video lamenting the lost of Beijing to the evil forces of pollution:


It all started on or around January 10th, with report that a number of cities in the north were afflicted with almost historic levels of air pollution.  A sampling of Air Pollution Index (API) readings (on a scale of 0-500) on that day:  Read the full story

By Julian Wong Jan.3.2013
In: governance, uncategorized

Adaptation and Resistance: The Two Faces of China's Energy Governance

Meet Mr. Adaptability and Mr. Resistance

Meet Mr. Adaptability and Mr. Resistance

In my attempts to catch up on lots of literature published over the past year that I missed, I finally read the 2012 paper China’s Long Road to a Low-Carbon Economy: An Institutional Analysis by Philip Andrews-Speed, one of the first and foremost international commentators on China’s energy economy.  Naturally, its stuff worth reading (otherwise I wouldn’t be blogging about it) because it addresses the core factors of whether China will ever succeed in its quest for sustainability – its governance institutions, and more specifically, the tension between the tendency of such institutions to maintain the status quo and their capacity to adapt to change.  Andrews-Speed is ultimately pessimistic, but more interesting, I think, is his thought processes in reaching such a conclusion.

Andrews-Speed’s paper begins with a simple and powerful premise:  governance must be “at the heart of the low-carbon transition” because energy is an inherently political issue as it is embedded in practically all facets of society and any change to how much or how it is utilized requires a complex alignment of incentives with the norms, values and priorities of a multitude of stakeholders in society.

Implicit in this premise is that other factors such as technology or financing, while important, are factors of a lower order.  Its hard to disagree with such reasoning. Ultimately, technology innovation and capital mobilization exist within Read the full story

By Julian Wong Dec.31.2012
In: uncategorized
1 comment

Green Leap Forward 2.0

After that grand return, its time to sink our teeth into the substance of the next chapter of the Green Leap Forward.  Following a two and a half year hiatus and shortly after celebrating GLF’s 5th Anniversary earlier this month, we resume our watch on China and all the ways it is succeeding and failing at creating a more sustainable future.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes...

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes…

In this reincarnation, GLF will do things slightly differently from its first five years.

  • We’ll cover more than just sustainability – the Chinese government has to juggle competing priorities, and how China fairs in providing economic welfare and ensuring social stability will influence how much resources to channel towards sustainability (although how China fairs in promoting sustainability will surely affect how it fairs economically and socially as well). Furthermore, international relations, both political and economic, will shape how China manages its natural resources, and vice versa.  In short, a systems thinking approach will be employed to understand the political economy of sustainability in China.
  • We’ll cover more than just China – sustainability is poorly understood.  Here at GLF, we’ll lay down some universal principles of sustainability along the way, and apply them real life examples in China and other places.
  • We’ll cover more than just energy and climate.  When we speak of sustainability, energy is just one of four pillars in the emerging food-water-energy-waste nexus.  Here at GLF, we’ll seek a more balanced treatment of all four nexi.
  • We’ll avoid the trap of Read the full story
By Julian Wong Dec.6.2012
In: uncategorized
1 comment

"" - Low Carbon Gangnam Style fever hits Beijing

Yes, we are back, and back with a bang!   This new video by G Fresh and @sustainablejohn is just the sort of epic “bang” that Green Leap Forward is coming back with:

Directed by Sustainable John @sustainablejohn (twitter) @罗大翰 (weibo)
Producer: An Na; Editor: Sustainable John, Lyrics: Sustainable John; Choreography: Yu Fei; Filming: Tim Quijano; An Na, Zhang Yuchen; Green PSY: George Ding; Dancers: Liu Dan, Guan Fei, Wang Zhuqing, Sustainable John; Sound: Busy Bee Studios, Beijing

GLF had an exclusive one-line SMS interview with @sustainablejohn this morning that went like this: Read the full story

By Julian Wong Jul.31.2010
In: uncategorized


After more than two and a half years of blogging, I am sad to announce that I will have to take an indefinite break from contributing original pieces to this site.

Starting Monday, I begin a new stint with the U.S. government at the Department of Energy representing the United States in our collaborations with the Chinese government to develop clean energy solutions to protect the health and future of our children and build a new foundation of economic prosperity.  Due to the nature of my new job, I will not be able to blog in the way I have for the previous 170 posts, but I am pretty confident that some day I will be right back with more writing.  It is addictive.

I would like to thank all my Read the full story

Green Hops: It's Been a While! (And the next may be for a while)

Haven’t done a Green Hops for a long time, so there are lots of developments over the past weeks to catch up on!

Ten-Year New Energy Development Plan Closed to being Unveiled

State media is reporting that the National Energy Administration has finalized a 10-year new energy development plan that will require a cumulative investment of 5 trillion yuan  ($740 billion) to realize.  The plan, which is a strategy to help China realize its goals to achieve 15 percent of its primary energy mix from non-fossil sources and also to reduce its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, will be sent to the State Council for approval.

This plan seems to be the long-awaited new energy stimulus plan that GLF blogged about more than a year ago with baited breath, and in fact seems to provide almost double the investment dollars.  I would, however, strongly caution against assuming that this investment estimate will translate to direct funding by the central government.  Most likely, just like the economic stimulus package of 2008, this amount represents a total investment amount that will be provided by a combination of central, provincial and local governments in addition to the private sector (see my presentation at CSIS earlier this year).

That said, the details released so far are still impressive.  Important to note is the comprehensive breadth of sectors that fall under the “new energy” concept-its not just renewables such as wind, solar and biomass, but also energy efficiency, nuclear, smart (and strong) grid, transportation, unconventional natural gas, and more efficient use of fossil fuels.

A notable winner of this plan is natural gas, a hitherto minor energy resource for China (see picture).  The NEA estimates that natural gas will account for 8 percent of China’s energy needs by 2015 at 260 billion cubic meters, compared to just 4 percent of a smaller energy supply base today at around 100 bcm.  As the Financial Times blog recognizes, this strategic push for natural gas represents an economic opportunity for foreign firms with the right expertise.

New Energy Car Subsidies

In June, new subsidies for the private purchase of “new energy cars” came into effect ona pilot basis in five cities-Shanghai, Changchun, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Hefei.  The scheme provides up 3,000 yuan ($440) for fuel-efficient cars below 1.6 liters in engine capacity, and up to 50,000 yuan ($7,400) for plug-in hybrids and 60,000 yuan ($8,900) for pure electric vehicles for private consumers.  This new program is different from the 13-city new energy vehicle subsidy a few years ago which targeted public fleets (this will be expanded to 20 cities).

Beijing was a notable omission from this new 5-city pilot program, and according to my conversations Read the full story

By Julian Wong
In: coal, collaboration, innovation
1 comment

China's Innovation Model and its Role in the Global Clean Energy Market

This is slightly dated by now but I want to be sure this is posted for posterity’s sake.  In mid-May I participated in a panel discussion at the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center here in Washington, DC.   The topic of discussion was “Decarbonizing King Coal: Growing U.S.-China Clean Technology Cooperation”, and my fellow panelists Ming Sun of Clean Air Task Force (pictured right) and Albert Lin representing Future Fuels, LLC (pictured left) had very interesting perspectives on the role of “clean coal” in China’s energy future.  (And that’s me in the center of the pic.) The focus of my presentation was to provide a more macro look at China’s innovation capacity in clean energy technologies.  The whole sessions can be accessed at this archived webcast.

For the convenience of readers, I am pasting my presentation outline (as prepared, but not necessarily delivered) here: Read the full story

By Julian Wong Jul.30.2010
In: innovation, policy

How to Deal with Chinese Green Protectionism: A U.S. Perspective

This is a repost of my final column at Center for American Progress that was also reposted on Climate Progress, and an adaptation of excerpts of my recent full written testimony before Congress.

Foreign governments’ and businesses’ frustration and disgruntlement over China’s restrictions on trade and foreign investment is reaching fever pitch. First it was Jeff Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric in a speech in Rome earlier this month raising the question of whether China “want[s] any of us to win, or any of us to be successful.” Then it was the chief executives of BASF and Siemens together with German chancellor Angela Merkel in an exchange with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last weekend in Beijing, who all reportedly used pointed language to call China’s restrictive foreign investment and trade policies to question. These complaints, while valid, point to a larger problem here in the United States—we give the Chinese government leverage by not giving companies valid market alternatives.

There has been particular attention on Chinese government policies in the clean energy sector that favor domestic companies and products over their foreign counterparts. This is a new industry and represents a rapidly growing market for foreign firms. But there is also a widely held notion in the international business community that clean energy should be more open to foreign competition since it doesn’t raise the same national security concerns as tightly held industries such as defense or telecommunications.

Despite a substantial 19.6 percent rise in foreign investments into China over the first six months of this year, there is still a growing question whether China is using industrial policy beyond legitimate means of promoting domestic development of fledgling industries, and actively shutting out foreign competition so as to cultivate national champions. After all, China’s Medium-to-Long Term National Plan for Science and Technology Development, or S&T Plan, released in 2006, does explicitly call for the “the country’s reliance on foreign technology [to] decline to 30 percent or below.”

The frontlines of this debate lie in the Chinese government’s policies to promote homegrown innovation, or “indigenous innovation” as it is called. The National Indigenous Innovation Accreditation Program, initially announced last November, directs Chinese government agencies and provincial governments to procure products listed in a newly created product catalog covering six categories from companies that meet certain criteria. The release had foreign businesses up in arms. Foreign companies rightly charge that the criteria used to determine whether or not a firm’s product qualifies for the catalog discriminates against their products and excludes them from potentially lucrative Chinese government procurement contracts.

Excellent overviews of the details surrounding these government procurement guidelines are available elsewhere, but several points are worth bearing in mind. First, what the Chinese government is doing is Read the full story