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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

By Julian Wong Jul.9.2010
In: agriculture, biofuels, hydro, water
0 comments

The FoodEnergyWater Nexus: An Integrated Approach to Understanding Chinas Resource Challenges

In this post, originally published in Harvard Asia Quarterly. I draw the connections among food, water and energy systems in China and make the case for the urgent need for more integrated approaches to resource management.

Related posts:

China’s rapidly growing economy is very quickly testing the limits of its resource constraints. While China is home to a quarter of the world’s population, it is endowed with disproportionately less arable land, oil and water.

Such natural resources are vital to any nation’s ability to be self-sufficient, but China’s predicament is especially dire not only because of its large population, but also its rapid urbanization and climate change, both of which will exert more intensive demands on food, energy and water supply. Yet, other than recognizing that water is essential for agriculture, the discussion of each resource constraint is often conducted in isolation, without paying heed to the inter-linkages of food, energy and water systems.

The Example of the Yangtze River
China’s Yangtze River (pictured right) is the third longest in the world and stretches over 6,000 kilometers from the Qinghai Plateau in the west towards the East China Sea at Shanghai. Throughout China’s history, it has played a central role culturally, socially, and economically. It is the unofficial dividing line between China’s north and south, flows through deep gorges in Yunnan Province that have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and serves as the lifeblood upon which much of China’s agricultural and industrial activity has depended on to the present day. All told, the Yangtze River system produces 40 percent of the nation’s grain, a third of its cotton, 48 percent of its freshwater fish and 40 percent of its total industrial output value.
The Yangtze has now become a victim of its own success. With China’s rapid economic industrialization over the past three decades, the Yangtze has evolved from a source of life and prosperity to a symptom of the limits of China’s unabated economic pursuits. It has become a depository for 60 percent of the country’s pollution, making it the single largest source of pollution in the Pacific Ocean. The Yangtze is also home to two massive and highly controversial hydraulic projects—the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydro-electric power facility, and the South-North Water Diversification (SNWD) project (see map illustration below), an unprecedented, multi-decade effort to channel water from the water-rich south to the arid north—each a symptom of a larger ill. The former project points to China’s struggles to maintain energy security and desire to use cleaner sources of energy in a carbon-constrained world, while the latter points to its sheer desperation to address a gross imbalance in the distribution and use of water resources across the Chinese sub-continent.

Neither project comes on the cheap; the Three Gorges Dam bore a price tag of US$30 billion and the SNWD project is projected to cost twice that. Both projects have caused, or will continue to cause, the dislocation of hundreds of thousands of citizens and the significant alteration of landscapes, including the destruction of arable land. Needless to say, both projects have required, or will require, massive inputs of concrete, steel and energy. Together, Three Gorges and SNWD point to a fragile interrelationship between energy, water and food. Beyond the Yangtze, the “food–water–energy trilemma” represents a looming and complex threat to China’s economic stability and national security.

Watergy
Climate change now stands front and center of energy and environmental agendas around the world. In virtually every case, Read the full story

By Julian Wong Jan.6.2010
In: water
1 comment

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

Simply put, China’s water demand will outgrow supply in the next two decades.  By 2030, China will experience a water supply deficit of 25 percent (see chart below).

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

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

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

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

Green Hops: Water Forum, Gasoline Price Hikes, Guangdong LED

Editor’s Note:  This edition of Green Hops contains an inexplicably frequent number of references to Guangzhou and Guangdong.  We wonder why that might be…

Water issues continue to dominate China’s environmental agenda thanks to the recent World Water Forum in Turkey.  The forum ended pathetically, failing to recognize water as a basic human right.  But in more positive news, Guangzhou (capital city of southeastern Guangdong province) received the “Compromiso Mexico” water prize, which rewards “the best local public policies that have had a positive impact on the drinking water, sewerage and sanitation services in the communities they interact with.”  According to Xinhua:

Since 1997, the government launched a number of water initiatives, which greatly improved the once heavily polluted inlets of the city’s Pearl River. The government is expected to allocate 48.6 billion yuan (some 7.11 billion U.S. dollars) for water management in 2009 and 2010, which accounts for one third of its financial budget.

Read the full story

Green Hops: Green People's Congress, Beijing Solar Thermal Plant, Forestry Initiatives

This edition of Green Hops is dedicated to Andrew Symon, a Singapore-based journalist specializing in energy and whom I have had the pleasure and honor of making an acquaintance of as a result of his writings at Asia Times Online.  He passed away unexpectedly on February 24, 2009.  Andrew’s generosity, sense of mission and powerful intellect will be sorely missed.

Energy intensity (energy consumption per unit of GDP) last year was reduced by a further 4.59%, bringing the three year total in energy efficiency gains in 2006 through 2008 to 10.08%.  This means that to reach its 20% energy intensity reduction target over the five year period for 2006 through 2010, it will have to reduce almost another 10% in energy intensity over 2005 levels.  Even if it seems difficult to achieve, such efforts much press on.  To sobering reality is that China’s annual greenhouse gas emissions surged 45% from 2002 to 2005 alone due to a combination of structural changes in industrial activities and increased consumption.  Half of that increase, apparently, was driven by manufactured exports. But the Chinese authorities say that exports in general are declining (25% year on year) and that the amount of “high-energy-consuming products” exported in 2008 declined 16.2%  from the previous year. Read the full story

By Julian Wong Feb.17.2009
In: agriculture, energy efficiency, policy, water
5 comments

China's New Water Efficiency Targets (and Implications for Food and Energy)

China has set itself a target to reduce water consumption per unit GDP by 60% by the year 2020, according to Chen Lei, the Minister of Water Resourced and Management.  This pronouncement comes in the wake of extreme drought conditions currently afflicting central and northern China, and statistics released over the weekend that shows China experiences an annual deficit of 40 billion cubic meters of water, with almost two thirds of all cities experiencing varying degrees of water shortage and 200 million rural dwellers facing drinking water shortages. Such ambitions are lofty but not the first time water efficiency goals has been made official policy; in 2007, it set the target of reducing “water intensity” by 20% for the five year period ending 2010. Read the full story

Green Hops: Drought, Cars and International Partnerships

Its been a busy few weeks since our last Green Hops, so GLF is gonna pack in the updates over two posts consecutive posts.

Drought

The “worst drought in half a century” affecting eight northern and central provinces dominated the past week’s news.  A 90 percent drop in average rainfall since last November will affect 11 million hectares of wheat crops and create a drinking water shortage for 4.4 million people and 2.2. million livestock.  RMB 187 billion of emergency funds have been earmarked.  As stop-gap measures, authorities are diverting water from the Yangtze and Yellow River to drought-ridden areas, as well as shelling the sky with pellets to induce rain, Beijing Olympics-style.  The water diversion measure has been able to get half of the wheat lands irrigated, but is rather ironic given that a recent study shows that 82% of China’s whopping 3.57 million square kilometers of degraded lands (equivalent to the size of 10 Germanys!) exists in the Yangtze River and Yellow River valleys.  The water scarcity woes of northern China have been well described on this blog by Christine Boyle.  The World Bank also chimes in with its own comprehensive list of policy recommendation to address water scarcity. Read the full story