My blogging has been irregular as of late due to heavy commitments with my day job, but to compensate, I hope my blog readers have also been following my regular tweets at @GreenLeapFwd. Today,The Guardian named me among the “Top 50 Twitter climate accounts to follow“, and #4 among climate bloggers. A great honor!
I am equally thrilled that my colleague and uber-prolific blogger, among climate bloggers.
Thanks to my Guardian and followers who helped shape Guardian’s list. Twitter has allowed me, in my many moments of insane busyness, to still share links on the latest energy, environmental and climate news on or from China.
But that’s not excuse to getting back to some serious blogging…
A Look Under the Hood at China’s High-Speed Rail Investments, originally published here.
We took the high-speed CRH3 train that runs between Beijing and Tianjin. Technology for the CRH3, assembled in China, was originally derived from Siemens’ Valero line of train technologies.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower put a down payment on the U.S. economy in 1956 by signing the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act. This wise investment in a modern, transformative transportation infrastructure—in the form of 41,000 miles of interstate highways—enabled the rapid movement of people and goods across the nation and was vital to our astounding economic progress for the next 50 years.
Today, it is China that is leading the world in a key next-generation transportation technology: high-speed rail. China has already built 4,000 miles of rail featuring trains with average speeds of 120 miles per hour or greater, and the country plans to build an additional 10,000 miles of high-speed rail connecting all of China’s major cities by 2020.
CAP experts experienced the high-speed rail firsthand during our recent fact-finding mission to China. We took the train from Beijing to Tianjin, reaching a top speed of 205 mph and covering the 73-mile journey—roughly the distance between New York and Philadelphia—in less than 30 minutes. Stepping off the rail platform, it was hard not to get the feeling that China is racing ahead in investing in mass public transit infrastructure while the United States is lagging behind in the race to develop clean energy industries.
China’s $300 billion investment in high-speed rail
China already boasts a rail network that, including both standard and high-speed rail, is more than 53,000 miles long. And China plans for that network to reach 68,000 in 2012 and 75,000 by 2020. All of China’s provincial capitals have been connected by rail since the 1960s, and unlike the United States, rail is already a major mode of intercity passenger transportation.
The country began planning its nationwide network of high-speed rail in the early 1990s. And China began implementing a series of six “speed-up” campaigns in the late 1990s to modernize its existing rail infrastructure by increasing the speed and capacity of its lines. It also plans to build new passenger-dedicated high-speed rail lines. Indeed, the centerpiece of China’s Medium- to Long-Term Railway Network Plan is a new national high-speed rail grid overlaid onto the existing rail network. The new grid would consist of four north-to-south corridors, four east-to-west corridors, and two additional Read the full story
Hydropwer accounts for the overwhelming share of China’s alternative energy mix, but is perhaps also the one of the more controversial alternative energy options due to the ecological and social impacts of dam construction. This guest post by Peter Bosshard, policy director of International Rivers Network, examines China’s growing pains in its increasing role as an exporter of hydropower technology and expertise.
A few years ago, Chinese dam builders and financiers appeared on the global hydropower market with a bang. China Exim Bank and companies such as Sinohydro started to take on large, destructive projects in countries like Burma and Sudan, which had before been shunned by the international community. Their emergence threatened to roll back progress regarding human rights and the environment which civil society had achieved over many years. However, new evidence suggests that Chinese dam builders and financiers are trying to become good corporate citizens rather than rogue players on the global market. Here is a progress report.
In December 2003, China Exim Bank approved $519 million in loans for the Merowe Dam in Sudan (pictured right). It thus helped kick off a project which would displace more than 50,000 people from the fertile Nile Valley into desert locations, and for which the Sudanese government had failed to attract funders for many years. China Exim Bank also provided support to projects in Burma which no other funder was prepared to touch. “The Bank specializes in financing projects that no other financial institutions would fund”, International Rivers and Friends of the Earth warned in July 2004.
Chinese dam builders wasted no time rolling up the international market. Low costs, access to cheap loans and a big portfolio of domestic projects make them attractive partners for clients around the world. We are currently aware of at least 216 dam projects in 49 countries which have some form of Chinese involvement – and counting. The president of Sinohydro recently estimated that his company controls half the Read the full story
In it to Win: How China is developing its Clean Energy Economy through Markets, Finance and Infrastrucuture
Yesterday on March 4, my colleagues and I finally released this long-awaited report “Out of the Running? How Germany, Spain, and China Are Seizing the Energy Opportunity and Why the United States Risks Getting Left Behind” (picture of the report cover, pictured right). As the title implies, it is a survey of how three countries with very different political economies are each adopting comprehensive policies to develop their clean energy sector in a way that the United States isn’t. The table of page 5 of the report really sums it all up. Germany, Spain and China have comprehensive and coherent and long-term approaches to developing their clean energy industries, while all the United States has for the most part are state-by-state and temporary policies. The result? The United States ranks only 19th in the world in clean energy product sales as a proportion of GDP compared to Germany at third, Spain at fourth, and China at sixth.
The report was launched at a major event co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress and Apollo Alliance on March 4th (conference agenda here) in which I spoke on a panel, walking through the main elements of the report. The report was picked up by the New York Times.com, which featured a few nice quotes from me.
I re-post the chapter on China below (look at the full report for an equally thorough examination of Germany’s and Spain’s policies). The first part of the chapter looks at China’s accomplishments thus far across the clean energy value chain of innovation, manufacturing, deployment, exports and job creation. The second part takes a closer look at the policy tools, using the three-pillar framework of market creation, financing and infrastructure that I have previously articulated in a conference at RETECH 2010 last month (but also take note in that lecture that I point out that the fourth and fifth pillars of information transparency and international collaboration will be important for China’s future development of its clean energy economy). Here’s the China section: Read the full story
I had the opportunity to answer this question as a member of a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington DC foreign policy think tank, two weeks ago. The event was held on February 17 to mark the one year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and sought to explore the effectiveness economic stimulus packages in the US and globally in catalyzing green investments. My remarks begin at about 24’21 into the video below:
My simple answer? There is no simple answer. The lack of transparency of what exactly is being allocated, how those allocations are being spent, and how the uncertainty around the lesser known story of bank lending (or monetary policy), that is separate from the fiscal stimulus figures into clean energy investments makes it nearly impossible to know just how much money is hitting the clean energy road in China.
The following is the prepared outline on which I based my remarks on, in case you find it onerous to sit through the video presentation:
I. Basic Facts – first thing to highlight is the opacity of it all.
a. Central vs provincial contributions: Of 4 trillion yuan ($586 bill) total, 1.18 is from central government while the rest is from sub-national govt and private sector. OECD says 600 bn yuan is from sub-national govt while rest is from private sector (and most of this is from bank loans to private sector). This is last bit is significant as we shall discuss in a bit.
b. Change in allocations: from Nov ’08 to March ’09 – not clear what implications are for “green”
i. Sustainable development share decreases from 350 bn yuan (9%) to 210 bn yuan (5%)
ii. Infrastructure decreases from 1.8 tr yuan (45%) to 1.5 tr yuan (38%)
iii. Technology advances and industry restructuring increases from 160 bn yuan (4%) to 370 bn yuan (9%).
c. How much new versus repackaged is also a source of uncertainty.
II. There have been bullish estimates of the “greenness” of China’s stimulus package.
a. What do we know? Read the full story
A Take on China's Comprehensive Approach to Developing a Clean Energy Economy - Remarks at RETECH 2010
Last week, at the on my promise in my last blog post to put up merely an outline of my remarks:
This speech in fact serves as a preview of an upcoming report by my colleagues and I that takes this three pillar approach to analyze the clean energy policies of Read the full story
Earlier this week I appeared on Minnesota Public Radio with Georgetown University’s Joanna Lewis for 45 minutes of conversation on how China is taking the clean energy challenge by its neck and running with it. Here’s the full audio to the discussion:
The show was clearly motivated by the recent Energy, with national targets for each renewable energy technology type for 2010 and 2020, being a case-in-point. Such national targets send clear signals to the market that the government is committed to this new low-carbon industry for the long haul, thus stimulating private and provincial investment.
This discussion dove tails nicely with Read the full story
Updated Feb 9
The “new energy super ministry” announced last week is neither new, nor a super ministry. Let’s discuss.
First, the raw facts.
On January 22, the State Council announced the formation of the National Energy Commission, whose purpose would be to:
To study and formulate national energy development strategy, to consider the major issues of energy security and energy development, to coordinate domestic energy development and important matters of international cooperation. (“负责研究拟订国家能源发展战略，审议能源安全和能源发展中的重大问题，统筹协调国内能源开发和能源国际合作的重大事项。”)
The NEC consists of 23 members made up of:
Director: Premier Wen Jiabao
Vice-Director: Li Keqiang, Vice Premier of the State Council
You Quan, Deputy Secretary-General of the State Council
Zhu Zhixin, Director of the Central Finance Office
Yang Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Zhang Ping, Director of National Development and Reform Commission
Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology
Li Yizhong, Minister of Industrial and Information Technology
Geng Huichang, Minister of Security
Xie Xuren, Minister of FinanceXu Shaoshi , Minister of Land and Resources
Zhou Shengxian, Minister of Environmental Protection
Li Shenglin, Minister of Transport Minister
Chen Lei, Minister of Water Resources Minister
Chen Deming, Minister of Commerce
Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the People’s Bank of China
Li Rongrong, Director of SASAC
Xiao Jie, Secretary of the State Administration of Taxation
Luo Lin, Secretary of the Safety Supervision Bureau
Liu Mingkang, Chairman of China Banking Regulatory Commission
Wang Xudong, Chairman of State Electricity Regulatory Commission
Zhang Qinsheng, Deputy Chief of General Staff
Zhang Guobao, Deputy Director of the National Development and Reform Commission, and Director of the National Energy Administration (NEA).
While Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Li Keqiang are titular leaders of the NEC, Zhang Ping, Director of the NDRC, will be in charge of the day-to-day management of the NEC, with Zhang Guobao, Zhang Ping’s deputy at the NDRC and director of the NEA, second-in-charge.
Now, let’s really discuss.
Is the NEC new? When I fist saw the announcement, I had to Read the full story
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