A news round up of energy and environment news in China over the past 4 weeks or so, sans analysis.
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.
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
As expected, the U.S.-China presidential summit in Beijing yielded an agreement on clean energy and climate change that focused on collaboration rather than emissions target setting (see my comments in Time.com and China Daily). Here’s a run-down on what this cooperation entails, in a piece published simultaneously at Climate Progress with my colleague Andrew Light.
“Very exciting day here in Beijing. There’s enormous interest in both governments in working together to fight climate change. The package announced today is far-reaching and can make a real difference in cutting emissions.” - David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs
Today, a comprehensive plan for U.S.-China cooperation on clean energy and climate change was announced in Beijing by President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao. The overall plan is much more ambitious in scope and depth than we had anticipated and contains directives to create various institutions and programs addressing a wide array of cooperation on clean-energy technologies and capacity building, including very important efforts on helping China build a robust, transparent and accurate inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions.
These efforts include cooperation in the following areas:
1. Greenhouse Gas Inventory. A memorandum of cooperation between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and China’s National Development and Reform Commission sets out avenues for collaboration on capacity building in climate change, with an initial focus on helping China to develop a robust, transparent and accurate greenhouse gas emissions inventory.
2. Joint Clean Energy Research Center. Originally announced this July, more details were provided on the joint center that will “facilitate joint research and development of clean energy technologies by teams of scientists and engineers from the United States and China, as well as serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country.” Financial support from public and private sources of at least $150 million over five years, split evenly between the two countries, will be provided. The Center’s research will initially focus on building energy efficiency, clean coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles. (Factsheet)
3. Electric Vehicles. Those initiative will “include joint standards development, demon Read the full story
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.
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.
Its been a busy few weeks since our last Green Hops, so GLF is gonna pack in the updates over two posts consecutive posts.
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
The Green Leap Forward travels to Singapore to look at three start-up companies–Zeco, AmpleMotion and The Green Car Co.–trying to make Singapore’s electric transportation dreams come true, and ponders the road blocks that lie in the path towards a renewable electron economy.
Singapore and the Renewable Electron Economy Proposition
The electrification of Singapore’s transportation has received growing interest ever since it was reported that an international panel of experts pegged Singapore as an ideal place to launch an electric vehicle (EV) network. For anyone who’s lived here, it really doesn’t take an expert to recognize that the island-state has a number of things going for it: a contained urban area (the longest east-west stretch is just over 40 km and north-south stretch about 20 km), one of the most efficient and reliable electrical grids, sophisticated IT sector, ambitions to remain at the forefront of maintaining its already world-class transportation infrastructure, and a top-down policy environment which will ensure rapid deployment of a complicated and ambitious system once there is buy-in from the top. Moreover, the potential of sunny and tropical Singapore to harness its hitherto mostly untapped solar resources to feed into its grid completes the puzzle of the vision for a “renewable electron economy,” whereby everything in the economy essentially works of electricity generated by clean renewable power. Read the full story
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
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.
In order to align retail fuel prices, Read the full story
We’ve gone more than a month without a “Green Hops” update…what a crime! We atone for that oversight here…
Climate Change and International Cooperation
A “high level” summit in Beijing on international technology transfer and climate change held on November 7 and 8 provided a preview of the international climate change negotiations that have kicked off in Poznan, Poland today. A blogger’s review of the Beijing summit can be found at China Green Space (the young author of which is a personal friend and has been getting some recognition lately). Basically, it is more of the same–China wants free capital and free technology from developed countries. This is the same position as what can be found in the recently released China Climate Change White Paper, which Read the full story