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By Julian Wong Jul.31.2010
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

Green Hops: Cold Snap, Renewables Boost, Water Woes

A news round up of energy and environment news in China over the past 4 weeks or so, sans analysis.

Avalanche

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.

Renewables

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

Greening China, One Video Clip at a Time

Let’s take a break from the heavy reading and enjoy some great video clips. The first two are first and third place winners of the UNFCCC/CDM International Video Contest 2009 (the theme was “How the Clean Development Mechanism Changes Lives”), the prizes for which will be awarded in Copenhagen during the ongoing climate summit. The third is first in an upcoming series by ClimateWorks.

Natural Gas Power Plant in Inner Mongolia Changes Nasong’s Lives, by Yang Li & Xiaochen Zhan


Waste Heat and Methane Capture Project at a Steel Plant in Hunan Province, by Van Yang


China Takes the Lead in Wind Energy Development, by ClimateWorks

China takes the lead in wind energy development from ClimateWorks on Vimeo.

Read the full story

Radio Interview on China balancing both shades of Green

I was on Worldfocus radio last night with Rashid Kang of Greenpeace China for a general discussion moderated by Martin Savidge on China’s ambitions to green its economy (the other shade of green).  Listen here:

Rashid and I explored the following issues:

  • how China is greening rapidly and developing many alternative energy programs — from the world’s most efficient coal power plants to vast wind power fields and solar water heating technology
  • implications of China’s growing automobile market
  • why nuclear power could be the wrong alternative energy solution for China
  • how food security affects China’s alternative energy strategy
  • what is potentially, as I called it, “the holy grail of renewables” — energy storage
  • and, why there are no climate change skeptics in China, but why China can’t go green overnight

Lesson to budding radio interviewees…always be cognizant of Read the full story

China in Copenhagen Day 1: Framing the Issues

As promised, for the nex two weeks, Angel Hsu (pictured right) and her colleagues from Yale University will be blogging live from Copenhagen. Angel Hsu is a Doctoral Student at Yale University, focusing on Chinese environmental performance measurement, policy and governance.  Prior to Yale, she worked in the Climate Change and Energy Program at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think-tank.  There, she managed the GHG Protocol’s projects in China, which focused on capacity-building on greenhouse gas accounting and reporting standards for Chinese government and businesses.

Greetings from Copenhagen! I, along with seventy Yale students, have descended upon Denmark’s capital to participate in the Fifteenth Conference of Parties (COP-15) climate talks that will hopefully result in a clearer picture of what a post-Kyoto agreement would be.  This “China in Copenhagen” series of blog posts featured on The Green Leap Forward will follow China’s negotiating position during the next few weeks.  We’ll shadow China’s negotiating team, speak with key experts, and report back to GLF on a daily basis.

While China has long established its negotiating position for Copenhagen, we’ve identified a set of major issues for the Chinese negotiating team at Copenhagen.  A team of masters students and I (call us “Team China” if you will), have carefully reviewed the negotiating texts (non-papers in policy-speak) and developed a series of policy scenarios and strategic recommendations for how China can act as a leader in this talks to achieve an outcome that is optimal for both themselves and the global climate regime.

What are these issues?

  • Legal structure: what are the options for the legal nature (or “bindingness”) of a post-Kyoto agreement and what would be most optimal for China?
  • Financing: how will China ensure appropriate funding for its mitigation and adaptation actions? Read the full story
By Julian Wong Aug.20.2009
In: climate change, coal, government
6 comments

Peaking Duck: Beijing's growing appetite for climate action

A follow-up to my previous post (“China’s softens climate rhetoric-commits to emissions peak (again), shows flexibility on Western reductions“) on the day that the Climate Group released an important report on China’s low-carbon opportunityThis post was originally published here.

China’s climate change envoy, Yu Qingtai, made headlines when he declared in a news conference earlier this month that “there is no one in the world who is more keen than us to see China reach its emissions peak as early as possible.”

Now all eyes are focused on the United States and China—the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters—with just four months to go to the U.N. summit on climate change in Copenhagen, where nations will negotiate a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Attendees at the most recent round of U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany may have left the meetings with a pessimistic sense that we’re a long way off from a global agreement. But interesting developments are unfolding in China outside of these U.N. meetings that bring a more hopeful message.

China already committed in a declaration last month with 15 other large emitting countries at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Italy to peak global and national emissions “as soon as possible.” That provision lacks a precise timetable and is laden with the caveat that of the “overriding priorities of developing countries,” but it is the statement of intent that the Chinese are clearly taking seriously.

Then just last week, a panel of climate policy experts from various Chinese government think tanks, published an extensive 900-page report that has gained notable attention in both the Chinese and Western press for advocating the notion that China can feasibly aim to peak its carbon emissions by 2030. The report is advisory in nature and by no means represents official policy, but it is the latest in a series of overtures by prominent Chinese academicians to set emissions peaking pathways. Hu Angang, a public policy professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a prominent policy adviser for the Chinese government, has also advocated for China to aim for peaking carbon emissions in 2030. He Jiankun, deputy head of the State Council’s Expert Panel on Climate Change Policy, has projected that China’s emissions are more likely to peak at 2035. Additionally, a different report released earlier this year by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, another prominent government think tank, called for peaking between Read the full story

By Julian Wong Jul.31.2009
In: coal
8 comments

Putting China's Coal Power Sector in its Proper Perspective

Greenpeace China has released a short briefing paper entitled “Polluting Power: Ranking of China’s Power Companies.”  Its objective–to provide a balanced analysis of the ten biggest power companies of China across various metrics such as coal consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and share of renewable power.  It does a credible job, and provides an interesting picture of how some firms are doing better than others in different regards.

It is a big pity that Reuters has chosen to sensationalize the report, cherry-pick one relatively unremarkable finding, and brandishing it as a headline–”Emissions of 3 big China power firms exceed UK“–as if China represented an ecological apocolypse.  Guardian brandishes a very similar headline.  No doubt, China’s energy structure is heavily reliant on coal and is the world’s largest producer and consumer of that black stuff, but we’ve known this for a while.   But to say that “greenhouse gas emissions from the three biggest Chinese power firms in 2008 were higher than those of the entire United Kingdom” is rather meaningless without context.  We need to ask–how big are these firms?  We are not saying that China’s biggest three power plants are matching the entire UK in carbon emissions, but that China’s three biggest utility companies, with fleets of hundreds and hundreds of power plants accountable for 30% of the entire power supply for China and its 1.3 billion people (30% x 1.3 billion = 390 million), is matching the carbon emissions output of the entire economy of the UK and its 61 million citizens.   Viewed in that context, Reuters headline is decidedly unremarkable, and in fact makes China look good!  [The explanation is, of course, a large segment of China's population remains in energy poverty, and that we are comparing carbon missions for 3 chinese companies from the power sector against all the sectors of the UK economy]

This is not to say that we should let the Chinese power sector off the hook.  The report underscores some alarming findings and trends: Read the full story

China's Climate Progress by the Numbers

A common refrain from climate action naysayers is that, “China is building two coal-fired power plants a week!” They insist that the United States should wait until this major emitter takes on binding commitments to climate change mitigation before it decides to adopt global warming pollution reduction policies in the American Climate and Energy Security Act (H.R. 2454). They further claim that if such a bill became law, the United States would be transferring its jobs to countries such as China and India that are doing nothing to curb emissions. But that thinking is exactly wrong.

Critics fairly point to the fact that 80 percent of China’s power is derived from dirty coal, and that China recently surpassed the United States as the word’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Yet China’s per capita emissions remain a fifth that of the United States, and its historical cumulative per capita emissions from 1960 to 2005 are less than one-tenth that of the United States.

Still, the Chinese have recognized that it’s climate inaction—not climate legislation—that will lead to its own economic undoing. As the U.S. Congress debates the merits of enacting renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards, China has already forged ahead with building its own low-carbon economy, laying the foundation for clean-energy jobs and innovation.

China ranked second in the world in 2007 in terms of the absolute dollar amount invested in renewable energy, according to the Climate Group. It spent $12 billion, which put it just behind Germany’s $14 billion. These investments have placed China among the world leaders in solar, wind, electric vehicle, rail, and grid technologies. And now approximately 9 percent of China’s $586 billion economic stimulus package will go toward sustainable development (excluding rail and grid) projects.

China is expected to unveil in the coming weeks another extensive and unprecedented stimulus package—reported to be in the range of $440 billion to $660 billion—dedicated solely to new energy development over the next decade, including generous investments in wind, solar, and hydropower. If those expectations are fulfilled, China could emerge as the unquestioned global leader in clean-energy production, significantly increasing its chances to wean its energy appetite off coal, and at the same time ushering in an era of sustainable economic growth by exporting these clean-energy technologies to the world.

The bottom line: China is not there yet, but it is beginning to transition to a clean-energy economy through a wide range of actions. The United States should recognize China’s efforts and encourage China to expand upon them. We have sketched this claim before, but let’s run though the numbers in more detail. Read the full story

By Julian Wong Mar.18.2009
In: agriculture, coal, rural development, uncategorized
5 comments

Small-scale Agriculture: A Viable Solution for China's Food and Environmental Concerns?

A guest post by Heather Chi on the promise (and potential perils) of small-scale organic agriculture in China.

Given the urgent need to reform China’s agriculture and food production infrastructure in the context of rising concerns about the country’s ability to feed its growing population, the need to ensure food safety for locally grown and exported produce, as well as the need to reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint, promoting small-scale agriculture emerges as a viable option that China’s policymakers should seriously consider.

Firstly, small-scale agriculture has significant potential to lift China’s struggling rural farmers out of poverty. A recent study on fruit farmers in Shandong reveals that at least a number of small and poor farmers have been able to access traditional marketing channels despite the rise of larger industrial farms that are increasingly integrating these supply chains. This is largely on account of the observation that a majority of transactions between buyers and producers are conducted in cash and done on a spot-market basis, rather than by supply contracts. This suggests that increased financial and technological support for small, rural Chinese farmers could be a significant contributor towards boosting rural incomes and narrowing the income gap between traditional and industrial agriculture. Read the full story

Green Hops: Green Car Washing; Pearl River Delta; Solarizing Qaidam Basin

Mobility

In the wake of more bad (good if you are for green) news in China’s auto sales trends, GLF is observing an increasingly resonant cacophony of green washing in the auto sector…

Small is beautiful” seems to be the message by industry analysts to Chinese auto makers.  The government agrees, as evidenced by the new tax breaks given to cars with smaller engines.

Haifei Automobile Group joins the electric vehicle race and sets its sights on launching the Haifei Saibo electric vehicle in the U.S. markets later this year.  Lithium-phosphate battery maker China BAK is getting government support for R&DGreentechMedia debates if the U.S. will move from Arab oil dependence to Asian car battery dependence.  Another angle is if both the U.S. and Asia moves towards South American lithium dependence.

Beiqi Foton Motor (SHSE: 600166) established China’s first manufacturing and R&D base for new energy vehicles in Beijing.  The base covers an area of 1,000 mu (around 66.67 hectares), with a total investment of Read the full story