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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

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

Green Hops: 3 trillion reasons to stop what you are doing now and do a little dance

Top Stories: Cash for renewables; China may raise fuel economy standards; Pledges smart grid by 2020; Beijing water price hike

I’m not one for sensationalism, but my gosh, when multiple news sources are reporting that the much anticipated renewable energy stimulus package will is going to be for the massive amount of 3 trillion yuan ($440 billion), its hard to resist.  The amount is startling, considering that is is three quarters the size the economy-wide stimulus plan announced last November.  No details have been given about the allocation of these funds; the news reports are saying a focus on wind, given the recent tripling of wind energy targets in 2020 to 20 GW installed capacity.

But given the size of the funds, one must really wonder if this is going to be a big handout to the nuclear industry, which itself benefited from a national target boost to 70 GW installed capacity by 2020, or big hydro for that matter.  Unlike the November stimulus package, which was meant to be a short term boost for industry, this renewable energy package seems to be more far-sighted money, meant to be deployed over time from now till 2020.  $440 billion is still quite a large sum considering that National Energy Bureau division chief Liang Zhiping was recently quoted as saying that a sum of $190 billion was needed to realize China’s 2020 renewable energy targets, but more consistent than the forecast by New Energy Finance last year that $398 billion (or $268 billion excluding big hydro) is needed.  Then again, we also don’t to what extent nuclear, big hydro and grid infrastructure figure into the $440 billion on $190 billion numbers (they do not in NEF’s $268 billion forecast), so its all very hard to say.

Another Chinese report suggests that the package will actually be 4.5 trillion yuan ($660 billion) and tied to Read the full story

By Julian Wong May.30.2009
In: climate change, collaboration, oil
1 comment

U.S.-China: Cooperate we must, but please, no G2!

“This climate change crisis is a game-changer in U.S.-China relations…an opportunity that cannot be missed”

- Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House Speaker, May 26, 2009 in Beijing.

The nomination of Jon Huntsman, currently the governor of the state of Utah, as the U.S. ambassador to China brings back into focus the role of clean energy cooperation in the furthering of U.S.-China relations.  The choice of Gov. Huntsman has been lauded for various reasons-his fluency in Chinese, his track record as an Asian diplomat, the bipartisanship on the part of President Obama in nominating a Republican for the position (although some say he did so to take Gov. Huntsman, a likely Republican contender for the 2012 elections, out of contention)-but receiving less attention is the fact that Gov. Huntsman is a vocal advocate of the clean energy economy and the greenest governor that Utah as ever had (see youtube video interview).

The siren calls for US-China collaboration on clean energy and climate change action have been sounding nonstop ever since a new sheriff took over in Washington, D.C.  Such exhortations are well grounded in the similarities of the two countries’ energy profiles.  China and the U.S. are the  two largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in absolute terms on annual basis, both are heavily reliant coal for power and imported petroleum for transportation fuel and other non-transportation uses and both have had (and continue) to build continental-wide energy infrastructure to support a large population.  Various groups, such as Brookings Institution, Asia Society and Pew Center, Natural Rersources Defense Council, and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have recently published reports providing policy recommendations for clean energy cooperation to form the basis of a momentous new chapter in U.S.-China diplomacy.

But Elizabeth Economy and Adam Segal warn in a recent piece titled “The G2 Mirage” in Foreign Affairs (subscription required) that  we are only setting ourselves up for failure we we think that the U.S. and China are the only players in the game: Read the full story

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). Read the full story

By Julian Wong Feb.13.2009
In: biofuels, government, green hops, hydro, nuclear, oil, policy, smart grid, solar, wind
1 comment

Green Hops: Energy Law & Plan, Big 5 Subsidized, Installed Wind Doubles

Today’s Green Hops, focusing on energy supply, is a continuation of yesterday’s.

Two important macro-policy documents are in the works.  CELB reports that the comprehensive Energy Law may be passed in 2010 (though this Chinese clipping suggests it may be as early as this year), and that the 12th Five-Year Plan for Energy (2011-2015) is in draft mode.  Nuclear, wind and hydro seem to bet the alternative energy sources of choice.  This alternative energy review by China Daily, in its “Mixed Energy Forecast” seems to similarly suggest the short shrift given to solar.  How unimaginative.   I’m sure the solar industry would have something to say about that.  In fact, it has (see solar section below).

Before turning to the knitty-gritty of the green and brown energy news developments over the past weeks, I would like to highlight a sage piece of advice from CELB, that recognizes that China is still in many ways, but especially economic development, very much a “Rule by Plan” rather than “Rule of Law” society: 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

Green Hops: Autos, Nukes, Agro, Recycling Woes

Energy Price Reforms

NDRC announced that it would be removing price caps on coal from next year in a move towards a more market-driven price mechanism.  This move comes at an opportune time when coal prices have dropped by 30 to 40% since the summer, but GLF points out an earlier post (see finding #4) on a recent MIT coal report that suggests the upstream coal industry has already moved towards a de facto market price system.  Although the NDRC move “is a step in the right direction,” Huang Shengchu, president of Beijing-based China Coal Information Institute says in this interview that government macro-control is still needed to protect the rights of various coal stakeholdres in their contractual dealings with each other, accerlarate industry consolidation of the many small and inefficient mines and to set up a coal price index.

Separately, the proposed auto fuel price reform kicked in earlier than expected.  So it turns out that the answer to our confusion (see earlier post) of how the government proposed to hike up taxes and keep fuel prices even was that they would adjust the base fuel price downward, predicated on Read the full story

By Julian Wong Dec.7.2008
In: automotive, energy efficiency, oil, policy, transportation
6 comments

More Petroleum Price Reforms: Move towards the Market and Higher Fuel Tax

The auto industry is front and center of the current financial-energy tsunami.  Detroit is in big trouble, and in need of a life-line.  Chinese automakers are faring better (and some have them tipped to be Detroit’s white knights), but the shakeout  in China has played itself out in petroleum price reforms.

On Friday (Dec 5), the NDRC announced further proposals for energy price reform in the petroleum sector that would come into effect January 1 by indirectly linking domestic fuel prices to international crude oil prices as well as substantially increasing fuel taxes.  The NDRC curiously maintains that the moves will not impact prices at the pump (see FAQ by NDRC, in Chinese only), however, the feeling is that more details to the proposal needs to be released for this claim to be assessed.  Ostensibly, the fuel tax hike will be offset by the recent pullback in crude oil prices, resulting in minimal increases in pump prices in the near term.

The Proposal

In order to align retail fuel prices, Read the full story

By Julian Wong Nov.22.2008
In: biofuels, coal, nuclear, oil, policy, water
12 comments

Watergy: China's Looming National Security Crisis

China is not going to solve its energy problem if it does not solve is water problem (see previous post on “China’s Water Torture“).  It is as simple as that.

The fact is, the exploitation of just about every energy resource (including renewables, but especially fossil fuel) requires water.  Conversely, the purification of water for drinking requires energy, and some purification methods, such as desalination, require a lot of it.

Click to enlarge.  Source: “Energy Demands on Water Resources” a December 2006 report by the Sandia National Labs to the U.S. Congress on the interdependency of water and energy that remains the definitive report on the topic.

In energy resource and water scarce China, the energy-water nexus, or watergy, is a twin threat. Power production in China has to compete with agriculture, industries, and environmental flows for an already scarce resource.  China relies heavily on coal for electricity, is pushing hydro power and nuclear as major alternative sources of energy.  Coal-to-liquids (CTL or coal liquefaction) has also been cited as a way to reduce China’s dependence on oil imports.  According to the Pacific Institute, there have been Read the full story