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
Updated Sep 30: Reactions from U.S. legislators and Chinese translation of main blog piece.
President Hu Jintao (pictured right) of China announced that China will build on existing domestic climate change policies as embodied in its National Climate Change Programme and current Five Year Plan to step up its efforts on energy efficiency, development of low-carbon energy such as renewables and nuclear, and increase of forestry cover. [For a transcript of President Hu's speech, click here]
Most noteworthy was president Hu’s introduction of a new goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product from 2005 levels by 2020 by a “notable margin.” No specific numbers were provided, but this should not be surprising as such a far-reaching national policy must undergo various necessary legislative steps before it can become domestically binding. However, China’s willingness to translate its existing domestic energy conservation goals, often discussed in terms of amount of energy consumed, into a metric that is consistent with the language of international climate policy, i.e. carbon emissions, is the clearest signal yet that China is willing to take on responsibilities that are commensurate with its resources and global emissions impact.
This policy has at least three important implications. First, it would undoubtedly set China on a path to slow down its carbon emissions growth. How quickly such a deceleration leads to a peaking of China’s total emissions depends on the specific carbon intensity targets, but senior Chinese officials have recently given public assurance of China’s desire to peak its emissions “as early as possible.”
Second, a shift of focus from energy intensity to carbon intensity will help accelerate China’s transition to a low-carbon economy. The current energy intensity standard does not distinguish between energy derived from high-carbon fossil fuels and low-carbon renewables or nuclear. By framing China’s efficiency goals in terms of carbon emissions, low-carbon sources of energy will be favoured. A carbon intensity policy would thus not only encourage more efficient use of fossil fuels, as the current energy intensity goal does, but also amplify China’s already ambitious targets on renewable energy deployment.
Third, the policy implicitly commits China to measure, report and verify (MRV) carbon emissions on an ongoing basis. It remains to be seen whether Read the full story
Here’s a 7 minute television interview I did with the US television foreign policy program “Foreign Affairs”, discussing China’s clean energy policies. If you based in the U.S., it may not be too late to catch this on the TV (check schedule).
(p.s. not sure what the first visual on “a new direction for Hong Kong” means!)
I suspect there may be some questions regarding my remarks about Read the full story
Today, we welcome for a guest post (and video…eco-rapping included!) Sustainable John of China’s Green Beat, which is back after a seven month hiatus with this excellent expose on geothermal energy in the Middle Kingdom’s capital.
You may not know it looking around Beijing, but not all of the buildings you see are heated with natural gas and coal. Some are heated (and some cooled as well) using geothermal energy. Two main technologies are currently being employed in Beijing to this end:
- Deep well geothermal
- Ground source heat pumps
Deep well geothermal 深层地热井
Beijing has some unique geothermal resources. Far below the Earth’s surface underneath Beijing’s skyscrapers, apartments, and parks, there is an enormous amount of water at a natural temperature of 60-70 degrees. This is the reason why Read the full story
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
…and we’re back! Apologies of the prolonged dormancy, but yours truly has been busy lately transitioning to his new day job. But no time to waste! Let’s pick things up really quickly with some solar updates.
First, my solar policy paper, Getting out of the Shade: Solar Energy as National Security Energy, which we summarized before in a previous post, has now been published in three parts on China Dialogue. While the content remains the same, what’s new is that an Chinese version is now available.
There is an extra bit of text that is new in this edition that is worth noting:
[Encouragingly, since the first publication of this article, China has begun its journey out of the shade: China's Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has launched a solar roofs programme to subsidise qualifying PV systems at 20 yuan (US$3) per watt, while some provinces, particularly Jiangsu, are poised to offer significant financial incentives to increase local capacity in PV manufacturing and deployment.]
And what a surge in domestic solar projects there has been in response! Many of the new projects were tracked on a previous post Much Ado About Solar, and so we have a continuation of more solar activity announced since that post: Read the full story
When it comes to describing China’s energy and environmental situation, there is a need for journalists, critics and observers to keep the big picture in mind and appreciate the contradictory and schizophrenic nature of Chinese policy making. Environmental impact assessments have been skirted, but a renewable energy stimulus package is on the cards.
A recent piece in the New York Times suggests that the economic slowdown is causing planners to favor of revenue-generating infrastructure and heavy industry projects that inevitably undercut environmental efforts that have been gaining momentum until recently. The story’s position hinges largely on the recently adopted “green passage” policy that speeds up the approval of industrial projects in light of the urgent economic needs of the country. Yes, folks, as CELB notes, that’s “green” for green light, not necessarily eco green. The NYT articles explains:
The Ministry of Environmental Protection, citing the urgency of fighting the downturn, adopted a new “green passage” policy that speeds approval of industrial projects. In one three-day stretch late last year, it gave the green light to 93 new investment plans valued at $38 billion.
Provincial environmental agencies quickly followed suit, cutting the allotted time limit to review environmental impact assessments from the maximum 60 days to as few as five days in one province. Here in Hebei, the parched dust-bowl province that surrounds Beijing, officials announced approval of four new cement plants in a single day in January.
This is an unfortunate development. As one observer says, Read the full story
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.