Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pedal Power! E-bikes in China.

Nifty article in The New York Times on electric bikes:

An Electric Boost for Bicyclists
By J. David Goodman (Jan 31, 2010)

"Detroit may be introducing electric car designs and China may be pushing forward with a big expansion of its highways and trains." But millions more are "taking part in a more accidental transportation upheaval."

In China, "an estimated 120 million electric bicycles now hum along the roads, up from a few thousand in the 1990s. They are replacing traditional bikes and motorcycles at a rapid clip and, in many cases, allowing people to put off the switch to cars.  In turn, the booming Chinese electric-bike industry is spurring worldwide interest and impressive sales in India, Europe and the United States. China is exporting many bikes, and Western manufacturers are also copying the Chinese trend to produce models of their own. From virtually nothing a decade ago, electric bikes have become an $11 billion global industry."

Electric bicycle riders in China, where about 120 million such bikes are used, with some going up to 30 miles an hour.

More perspective on e-bikes from other publications:

E-Yikes! Electric Bikes Terrorize the Streets of China (WSJ)
“Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, have taken off in China. But some people say they are dangerous, and may not be so green after all." (Jan 17, 2010)

China’s E-Bikes: Less-Than-Perfect Pioneers (WSJ)
Blog entry from WSJ's Shai Oster. With video! (Jan 19, 2010)

Putting the brakes on pedal power (Washington Post)
Bicycles give way to automobiles, but e-bikes keep two-wheel tradition alive. (Dec 14, 2009)

As a bonus, here is an academic paper I came across last quarter doing research for a different class. (Published in Energy Policy:)

The future of electric two-wheelers and electric vehicles in China
J. Weinert, J. Ogden, D. Sperling and A. Burke (2008)


Will China Eat America

Technological innovations in the Silicon Valley have been transforming our world for decades now. Many are betting on the Valley to drive the CleanTech revolution. An interesting article (by an entrepreneur turned academic) on what China's doing better than the U.S. in this area


Will China Eat America’s Lunch in Cleantech?

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, January 30, 2010

U.S. Deal With Taiwan Has China Retaliating

New York Times

This article doesn't really pertain to energy use in China, but is interesting non-the-less.

HONG KONG — The Chinese government announced late Saturday an unusually broad series of retaliatory measures in response to the latest United States arms sales to Taiwan, including sanctions against American companies that supply the weapon systems for the arms sales.

The Foreign Ministry announced in a pair of statements from Beijing that some military exchange programs between the United States and China would be canceled in addition to the commercial sanctions. Furthermore, a vice foreign minister, He Yafei, has called in Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the United States ambassador to China, to protest the sales.

The American decision to sell more weapons to Taiwan “constitutes a gross intervention into China’s internal affairs, seriously endangers China’s national security and harms China’s peaceful reunification efforts,” Mr. He said in the ministry’s statement.

The Obama administration notified Congress on Friday of its plans to proceed with five arms sales transactions with Taiwan worth a total of $6.4 billion. The arms deals include 60 Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot interceptor missiles, advanced Harpoon missiles that can be used against land or ship targets and two refurbished minesweepers.

China has regarded Taiwan as a breakaway province ever since the Communists prevailed in 1949 in China’s civil war and the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan. The United States has been supplying Taiwan with arms under the Taiwan Relations Act, which Congress approved in 1979 and which mandates that the United States supply weapons that Taiwan could use to fend off an attack by mainland Chinese forces.

Canceling military discussions and calling in the American ambassador have been two standard Chinese measures in response to previous American arms sales to Taiwan. But the announcement of restrictions on the Chinese operations of American companies involved in the arms sales represents an unusual twist, said James C. Mulvenon, the director of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, a defense analysis firm in Washington.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement that mentioned the commercial sanctions was vague, providing no details on the restrictions that would be imposed on these companies’ business dealings in China or even what companies would be involved.

The United States has occasionally imposed bans on exports to the United States by Chinese companies that have violated international agreements on weapons proliferation, most notably penalizing Chinese companies involved in alleged surreptitious shipments of medium-range missiles to Pakistan.

But China is going a step further in moving to penalize American companies engaged in commercial arms transactions that are publicly announced and do not violate international nonproliferation pacts, Mr. Mulvenon said.

“I am a little baffled how the Chinese can sanction the U.S. companies as political retaliation while staying in keeping with their commitments to the W.T.O.,” he said.

The World Trade Organization generally prohibits the imposition of import restrictions as political maneuvers. But the body’s rules include a broad exception for national security that China could cite if the United States tried to challenge the propriety of China’s measures.

China has also never joined the W.T.O. side agreement on government procurement, despite promising to do so as soon as possible when it joined the organization in 2001. So China could bar the American companies from selling to the government without fear of W.T.O. review.

China Leading Race to Make Clean Energy

Here's an article on the first page of the New York Times today- renewable energy presenters might particularly enjoy!

January 31, 2010
China Leading Race to Make Clean Energy

TIANJIN, China — China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year.

China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants.

These efforts to dominate the global manufacture of renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China.

“Most of the energy equipment will carry a brass plate, ‘Made in China,’ ” said K. K. Chan, the chief executive of Nature Elements Capital, a private equity fund in Beijing that focuses on renewable energy.

President Obama, in his State of the Union speech last week, sounded an alarm that the United States was falling behind other countries, especially China, on energy. “I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders — and I know you don’t either,” he told Congress.

The United States and other countries are offering incentives to develop their own renewable energy industries, and Mr. Obama called for redoubling American efforts. Yet many Western and Chinese executives expect China to prevail in the energy-technology race.

Multinational corporations are responding to the rapid growth of China’s market by building big, state-of-the-art factories in China. Vestas of Denmark has just erected the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturing complex here in northeastern China, and transferred the technology to build the latest electronic controls and generators.

“You have to move fast with the market,” said Jens Tommerup, the president of Vestas China. “Nobody has ever seen such fast development in a wind market.”

Renewable energy industries here are adding jobs rapidly, reaching 1.12 million in 2008 and climbing by 100,000 a year, according to the government-backed Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Yet renewable energy may be doing more for China’s economy than for the environment. Total power generation in China is on track to pass the United States in 2012 — and most of the added capacity will still be from coal.

China intends for wind, solar and biomass energy to represent 8 percent of its electricity generation capacity by 2020. That compares with less than 4 percent now in China and the United States. Coal will still represent two-thirds of China’s capacity in 2020, and nuclear and hydropower most of the rest.

As China seeks to dominate energy-equipment exports, it has the advantage of being the world’s largest market for power equipment. The government spends heavily to upgrade the electricity grid, committing $45 billion in 2009 alone. State-owned banks provide generous financing.

China’s top leaders are intensely focused on energy policy: on Wednesday, the government announced the creation of a National Energy Commission composed of cabinet ministers as a “superministry” led by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao himself.

Regulators have set mandates for power generation companies to use more renewable energy. Generous subsidies for consumers to install their own solar panels or solar water heaters have produced flurries of activity on rooftops across China.

China’s biggest advantage may be its domestic demand for electricity, rising 15 percent a year. To meet demand in the coming decade, according to statistics from the International Energy Agency, China will need to add nearly nine times as much electricity generation capacity as the United States will.

So while Americans are used to thinking of themselves as having the world’s largest market in many industries, China’s market for power equipment dwarfs that of the United States, even though the American market is more mature. That means Chinese producers enjoy enormous efficiencies from large-scale production.

In the United States, power companies frequently face a choice between buying renewable energy equipment or continuing to operate fossil-fuel-fired power plants that have already been built and paid for. In China, power companies have to buy lots of new equipment anyway, and alternative energy, particularly wind and nuclear, is increasingly priced competitively.

Interest rates as low as 2 percent for bank loans — the result of a savings rate of 40 percent and a government policy of steering loans to renewable energy — have also made a big difference.

As in many other industries, China’s low labor costs are an advantage in energy. Although Chinese wages have risen sharply in the last five years, Vestas still pays assembly line workers here only $4,100 a year.

China’s commitment to renewable energy is expensive. Although costs are falling steeply through mass production, wind energy is still 20 to 40 percent more expensive than coal-fired power. Solar power is still at least twice as expensive as coal.

The Chinese government charges a renewable energy fee to all electricity users. The fee increases residential electricity bills by 0.25 percent to 0.4 percent. For industrial users of electricity, the fee doubled in November to roughly 0.8 percent of the electricity bill.

The fee revenue goes to companies that operate the electricity grid, to make up the cost difference between renewable energy and coal-fired power.

Renewable energy fees are not yet high enough to affect China’s competitiveness even in energy-intensive industries, said the chairman of a Chinese industrial company, who asked not to be identified because of the political sensitivity of electricity rates in China.

Grid operators are unhappy. They are reimbursed for the extra cost of buying renewable energy instead of coal-fired power, but not for the formidable cost of building power lines to wind turbines and other renewable energy producers, many of them in remote, windswept areas. Transmission losses are high for sending power over long distances to cities, and nearly a third of China’s wind turbines are not yet connected to the national grid.

Most of these turbines were built only in the last year, however, and grid construction has not caught up. Under legislation passed by the Chinese legislature on Dec. 26, a grid operator that does not connect a renewable energy operation to the grid must pay that operation twice the value of the electricity that cannot be distributed.

With prices tumbling, China’s wind and solar industries are increasingly looking to sell equipment abroad — and facing complaints by Western companies that they have unfair advantages. When a Chinese company reached a deal in November to supply turbines for a big wind farm in Texas, there were calls in Congress to halt federal spending on imported equipment.

“Every country, including the United States and in Europe, wants a low cost of renewable energy,” said Ma Lingjuan, deputy managing director of China’s renewable energy association. “Now China has reached that level, but it gets criticized by the rest of the world.”

Debate over excess capacity blows up in China's wind power sector

A few of the main points from the article are posted below, the full article is linked above. enjoy!

BEIJING, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- A split has emerged in China's wind power industry over its future development and government policies intended to avoid "excess capacity."

Some of China's leading large-scale wind power businesses have been lobbying the government to slow the growth of the industry because of alleged over-capacity

They appeared to have won the debate in September when the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved a document from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and nine other ministries, stipulating the NDRC would hold back funding or approval for projects in industries with production overcapacity.

Wind energy was among the industries listed.

But the "over-capacity of production" charge is untrue, argued Qin Haiyan, secretary-general of China Wind Energy Association (CWEA).

"The production overcapacity, as widely reported in the media or calculated by some government agencies, is based on the development programs of many enterprises. It is open to question whether these capacities will be realized," said Qin.

"I strongly oppose the policy of restricting businesses from other manufacturing sectors from entering the wind power sector. And I strongly oppose leading enterprises lobbying the government to restrict the development of the industry on the excuse of excess capacity."


Before 2004, China's wind power industry was almost non-existent. Its total installed capacity of wind power has grown about 20-fold from 764,000 kilowatts in 2004 to 15.85 million kilowatts by September 2009.

China is expected to have 120 million to 150 million kilowatts of installed wind power capacity, totaling 7 to 9 percent of the national total installed electricity capacity, in 2020, according to the China Energy and Environment Technology Association (CEETA).


According to CWEA, in 2004, Chinese enterprises accounted for only 18 percent of the total wind power installed capacity on the Chinese mainland, while foreign enterprises -- mainly from Denmark, Germany and Spain -- provided 82 percent. By the end of 2005, China had 1,864 wind turbines, producing 1.266 million kilowatts of power. Foreign businesses occupied 77.3 percent of the wind turbine market as well as exclusive control of high-end technological equipment.

The proportion was reversed by the end of 2008, when Chinese producers and joint ventures had 61.8 percent of the country's wind power equipment market.

Although the technologies for the most commonly used 1.5MW turbines are largely made with technologies introduced from Europe, some Chinese plants have begun to jointly design such turbines with foreign counterparts, in a bid to eventually develop them independently.

Much of this progress in forming a complete industrial chain was attributed to the 70-percent localization requirement policy, promulgated by NDRC in 2005.

This required that at least 70 percent of wind power equipment to be produced in China. Wind farms failing to adhere became ineligible for construction approval.

The aim was to reduce costs of wind power generation, speed up wind power industrialization, and most importantly to encourage multinationals to invest in and transfer technologies to China.

Qin Haiyan, secretary-general of China Wind Energy Association (CWEA). "We cannot restrict competition simply because of excess capacity. Latecomers often become superior in emerging industries.

"We will promote technological progress and lower costs through market competition. We do not have to worry there are so many competitors at a specific stage."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

China Sees Oil at $80 a Barrel (WSJ)

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, NDRC, China's macroeconomic planning body, predicts that international oil prices "will average $80 a barrel this year—about 25% higher than last year—reinforcing analysts' expectations that Chinese demand will continue to help push prices up despite concerns that recent credit-tightening moves could crimp its appetite for fuel." Full story here.

Notable quotes:
  • International Energy Agency forecasts China's oil demand for the year will average 8.82 million barrels a day, an increase of 4.3% from last year's 8.46 million barrels a day. Chinese oil demand surged 7.2% higher from 2008 as the government's giant stimulus package revived construction and car sales.
  • Figuring out China's situation is difficult because of a lack of transparency. There is no reliable data available on how much oil is going into government or company inventory stockpiles.
  • Typically, Chinese demand surges ahead of major holidays, such as the Chinese Lunar New Year that starts in mid-February this year, when tourism spikes, or when Chinese buyers think the government is about to raise prices. Then, in following months, demand may fall as the stockpiles are used up before companies go back to buying again.
  • In past months, analysts pointed out a strange trend that gasoline demand wasn't growing nearly as fast as other oil products. That could be partly explained by Chinese buying cars with smaller engines and using them less.
  • China's rising demand for crude also reflects new oil refineries starting up. Much of their product is exported, where it can be sold for a higher price than in the domestic market. For the first time in more than a decade, China was a net fuel exporter, according to energy analyst Paul Ting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Greenwashing Hydropower aticle from Worldwatch

You can read it online or download portions as pdf.

Also noteworthy is a photo spread related to the 3 Gorges Dam on pages 16-17 of the new issue.

With a Proven Track Record of Environmental Destruction, Why Are Big Dams Still Being Built?

Washington, D.C.-Despite high environmental and social costs, a major resurgence in dam construction worldwide is now under way, driven by infusions of new capital from developing countries and a public campaign by the dambuilding industry to greenwash hydropower as a source of clean energy. In the latest issue of World Watch magazine, a look at the heavy dam-building activity in China, the Amazon basin, and Africa illustrates the risks involved.

"The dambuilding industry is greenwashing hydropower with a public relations offensive designed to convince the world that the next generation of dams will provide additional sources of clean energy and help to ease the effects of climate change," write Aviva Imhof and Guy R. Lanza, authors of "Greenwashing Hydropower" in the January/February World Watch. "In some of the world's last great free-flowing-river basins, such as the Amazon, the Mekong, the Congo, and the rivers of Patagonia, governments and industry are pushing forward with cascades of massive dams, all under the guise of clean energy."

Big dams have frequently imposed high social and environmental costs and longterm economic tradeoffs, such as lost fisheries and tourism potential and flooded agricultural and forest land. According to the independent World Commission on Dams, most projects have failed to compensate affected people for their losses and to adequately mitigate environmental impacts. Local people have rarely had a meaningful say in whether or how a dam is implemented, or received their fair share of project benefits.

The authors explain that the industry's attempt to repackage hydropower as a green, renewable technology is both misleading and unsupported by the facts. In general, the cheapest, cleanest, and fastest solution is to invest in energy efficiency.

Despite alternatives, however, the promise of profits for the hydropower industry, their network of consultants, and host-country bureaucracies often trumps the impacts on people and ecosystems.

"A vigorous assault on corruption, plus technology transfer and financial assistance: These are the keys to allowing developing countries to leapfrog to a sustainable, twenty-first century energy regime," write Imhof and Lanza. "The stakes are high, because healthy rivers, like all intact ecosystems, are priceless. The alternative, quite simply, is a persistent legacy of human and environmental destruction."

Energy commission headed by Premier Wen set up

BEIJING: China's State Council, or Cabinet, has decided to set up National Energy Commission (NEC) with Premier Wen Jiabao as head to step up strategic policy-making and coordination, a circular from the General Office of the State Council said Wednesday.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang will act as the commission's deputy head, it said. Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission,will work as the head of the general affairs office of NEC, and Zhang Guobao, head of National Energy Administration will serve as the office's deputy head.

The commission will be responsible for drafting national energy development plan, reviewing energy security and major energy issues and coordinating domestic enery development and international cooperation, the circular said.
The NEC committee was composed of 21 members from various government agencies

Source :

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

China Grapples With A Burning Question

Two new projects, one in Inner Mongolia and the other in Tianjin, mark the coal-hungry country's first major steps toward trapping carbon emissions

Appeared in Science Magazine, September 28, 2009

Saturday, January 23, 2010

China White Papers

White Papers issued by the government on a variety of topics, ranging from rule of law, national defense, gender equality, and yes, energy.

NDRC raises electricity prices for non-residential users

Article from last November, in honor of class on Tuesday.

China raises price of electricity for non-residential use

BEIJING, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top economic planning agency, Thursday announced a rise in the price of electricity for non-residential use by 2.8 fen (0.4 U.S. cents) per kilowatt hour on average nationwide, as of Friday.

Residential electricity prices would not be raised this time. However, they would be charged on a progressive basis in the future, which meant prices would increase with consumption, said Cao Changqing, director of the NDRC's department of pricing.

The price increase would promote energy conservation awareness and the building of a resource efficient and environment-friendly society, added Cao.

China increased the price of coal-fired electricity, which power grid operators buy from power plants, by 2 fen on average last August, in a bid to ease cost pressures for power plants from rising coal prices. However, the retail prices of electricity had not been raised since then, which resulted in losses for grid operators, he said.

State Grid Corporation of China and China Southern Power Grid, the country's two leading power grid operators, lost a total amount of 16.1 billion yuan over the first eight months, the NDRC said in a statement on its website.

"If the electricity price could be raised by 1 to 1.5 fen per kilowatt hour, the State Grid Corporation of China could make up the losses incurred in the first half of this year within six months and have optimistic prospects for profitability," said Xie Dacheng, an industry analyst with Guangdong-based Guosen Securities.

Official figures showed that China's power consumption in October rose 15.87 percent year on year to 313.42 billion kilowatt hours, up for the fifth consecutive month since June.

The progressive pricing mechanism for residential users would be carried out in line with actual situations in different areas and after discussions and research, Cao said.

Residential electricity accounted for 12.8 percent of the country's combined power consumption in the first half, according to the China Electricity Council. China's non-residential electricity prices differ according to the area and sectors, but are higher than the price of power for residential use.

For instance, electricity for residential use in Beijing was 49fen per kilowatt hour, while that for agricultural use was around 52 fen per kilowatt hour, for secondary industry use 76 fen per kilowatt hour and for commercial use 79 per kilowatt hour, according to Beijing Electric Power Corporation.

Cao said the power price rise would not push up China's consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation. China's CPI dipped 0.5 percent year on year in October, while the producer price index (PPI), a major measure of inflation at the wholesale level, dropped 5.8 percent in October from a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The electricity bill only accounted for a small share of household spending. Even after the future rise in residential electricity prices, it would not add pressure to a CPI hike, said Li Mingliang, an analyst with Shanghai-based Haitong Securities.

The residential power price was 50 fen per kilowatt hour on average nationwide last year, lower than the non-residential power price, said the commission, without giving the average non-residential power price across the country.

"As the electricity consumed by secondary industry, including mining, manufacturing, building and construction sectors, accounted for more than 70 percent of the country's total, non-residential power price rises will exert more influence on the PPI than CPI," Li said. (1 yuan = 100 fen)


Three Gorges may force 300,000 more to relocate

The impacts and unanticipated consequences of large hydro continue to rise, as the Guardian reports. We'll be getting to this topic in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned!

Three Gorges Dam may force relocation of a further 300,000 people
Chinese government report recommends the relocation of an extra 300,000 people at risk of landslides and water pollution

Jonathan Watts
Friday 22 January 2010

A further 300,000 people must be relocated from around China's Three Gorges dam - in addition to the 1.2 million who have already been forced to leave their homes, according to a draft government report.
Less than two years after completion of the world's biggest hydroelectric power plant, site engineers have found landslides and water pollution are more severe than anticipated, prompting calls for drastic remedial efforts.

In a report drawn up over the past year, the managers of the project and regional officials recommend the withdrawal of people from long stretches of the reservoir's banks.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Amory Lovins

New article in "Foreign Policy" from Amory Lovins, one of the world's most brilliant and far-sighted thinkers on energy issues. It weaves the nuclear proliferation, climate change and oil dependence problems together and proposes a workable solution that advances national interests. Good stuff.

On Proliferation, Climate, and Oil: Solving for Pattern

JANUARY 21, 2010

[sample excerpts]

One false assumption can distort and defeat policies vital to paramount national interests. The Copenhagen climate conference proved again how pricing carbon and winning international collaboration are hard if policymakers assume climate protection is costly, focusing debate on cost, burden, and sacrifice.

That assumption is backwards: Business experience proves climate protection is not costly but profitable, because saving fuel costs less than buying fuel. Changing the conversation to profits, jobs, and competitive advantage sweetens the politics, melting resistance faster than glaciers. Whether you care most about security, prosperity, or environment, and whatever you think about climate science, you'll favor exactly the same energy choices: focusing on outcomes, not motives, can forge broad consensus.


Since Washington proposes nuclear fuel security initiatives, why not broader energy security initiatives? What if the Obama administration announced it would help spread the best buys it's adopting -- efficien­cy, renew­ables, distributed energy systems -- to all desirous developing coun­tries, unconditionally and nondiscriminatorily? Most such countries are renewable-rich, but infrastructure-poor. They could welcome "Sunbeams for Peace" for the same hard-nosed reasons that made China the world leader in five renewable technologies, with energy efficiency its top strategic priority -- not forced by treaty, but informed by Premier Wen Jiabao's and his fellow-leaders' understanding that otherwise Beijing can't afford to develop.
Perhaps the United States, which invented many of these technologies, could even try to reclaim part of the burgeoning market it abandoned to China, Japan, and Europe.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yingli Green Energy to Establish PV Technology Laboratory

Yingli Green Energy to Establish PV Technology Laboratory

Integrated PV manufacturer Yingli Green Energy has garnered government approval for the State Key Laboratory of PV Technology at its manufacturing base in Baoding, China.

Staff -- PV Society, 1/15/2010

Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. (Baoding, China), a vertically integrated PV product manufacturer, has announced that the Ministry of Science and Technology of China has given its seal of approval to what would be the country's first national-level key laboratory dedicated to development of PV technology.

The planned State Key Laboratory of PV Technology will be at Yingli Green Energy's manufacturing base in Baoding. The company already has dedicated technology and management resources to the application process and the laboratory's setup. The laboratory's mission will be to help develop China's reputation as a developer of world-class PV technology, and to commercialize the developed technologies at Yingli Green Energy's production plants. The laboratory also has benefited from the support of the company's Baoding Yingli Group Co. Ltd. affiliate.

"We believe technological innovation is essential to our position as a global leader in sustainable energy solutions and key to the quality and cost structure of our products," said Liansheng Miao, chairman and CEO of Yingli Green Energy. "With increasing support from both the public and private sectors, we believe the laboratory has the potential to positively contribute to the development of the PV industry as a platform for the commercialization of cutting-edge PV technologies, as well as a center for academic and professional training."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

China Drops ‘70% Home-Made’ Rule for Wind Turbines

by Bloomberg news

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s third-biggest producer of wind power, has dropped a rule stipulating that more than 70 percent of the wind turbines used in the country must be made domestically, whether by foreign or local companies.

The policy has been scrapped recently and there is no longer a quota, Shi Lishan, deputy director of renewable energy at the Beijing-based National Development and Reform Commission, said by telephone today. The change will spur foreign investment in the industry, according to a China Business News report.

Overseas companies have lost out on wind-energy projects as bidding criteria make it impossible for them to compete with domestic developers, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said last year. Still, China relies on foreign expertise for wind-turbine design and development and locally made components haven’t met global standards yet, Shi said last month.

“If China has to wait for the quality of their wind turbines to catch up with foreign countries, it’ll have to wait for a while,” Gordon Kwan, the head of energy research at Mirae Asset Securities, said by telephone in Hong Kong. “Countries like Spain and Denmark are already very successful in wind-power generation. If China can immediately apply the technology, that could speed up its plan to increase wind in their energy mix.”

The world’s second-biggest energy-consuming nation aims to increase its capacity to produce power from wind fivefold by 2020 to help combat climate change. China’s wind-power capacity will rise to 100,000 megawatts by then from at least 20,000 megawatts in 2010, National Energy Administration chief Zhang Guobao said on May 26.

Foreign Investment

Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar Inc. and Copenhagen-based Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, are among companies expanding in China.

“The ruling will make no difference to our operations, as 70 percent to 80 percent of our turbines are already made in China,” Andrew Hilton, a spokesman for Vestas, said by telephone in Beijing.

China has 70 wind-turbine makers with a capacity of about 15,000 megawatts a year, Dave Dai, a Hong Kong-based analyst at CLSA Research, said in a note on Sept. 2.

The policy change is a way of deregulating the industry, Mirae’s Kwan said. “This way, China can choose more easily between domestic or foreign investments,” he said.

Foshan to Build China 1st High-altitude Wind Power Project

by energy central

FOSHAN, Jan 14, 2010 -- SinoCast Daily Business Beat

An official of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization Investment & Technology Promotion Office-China yesterday confirmed that China's first high-altitude wind power project would be settled in the southern city of Foshan, Guangdong Province, next week.

With an estimated investment of CNY 400 million, the to-be-built project will form an annual power generation capacity of 100MW or so. Compared with the fossil fuel and common low-altitude wind power projects, it is much lower in terms of both the construction and power generation costs.

After the construction, the power generation here will be cost at CNY 0.22 per kilowatt-hours (KWH), compared with the province's average, CNY 0.36.

Charming by the abundant wind resources in China, the builder is much confident of completing this project. According to its work procedure, a kind of special kite will be flied in the sky, generating the mechanical energy via extension. Ultimately, the mechanical energy will be transformed into electric power through generators.

PreIPO Capital Partners agrees to invest CNY 50 million in the Foshan-based project, and the rest will be burdened by some local companies and the government of Nanhai District, Foshan.

Friedman - Is China an Enron? (Part 2)

Is China an Enron? (Part 2)
By Thomas L. Friedman
Published: January 19, 2010

Freel free to chime in with comments [CLICK BELOW]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

China depending more on imported oil

By Xiao Wan (China Daily)

China's oil imports will continue to see solid growth this year, with more than half of the country's total oil consumption coming from abroad, industry insiders said.

It is inevitable for the country - the world's second largest oil consumer - to see a robust increase of imports, as domestic production cannot keep up with rising demand, they said.

China's oil dependency reached alarming levels last year with imports accounting for 52 percent of total consumption, China Business News reported yesterday, citing Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Importing more than 50 percent is a globally recognized level for an energy security alert.

The country's oil imports in 2010 are expected to grow five percent from a year earlier, and the proportion of imported oil consumed may further rise to 54 percent this year, said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

"Domestic production is already at its peak," he said. "Although domestic companies have accelerated their overseas expansion, the resources they already gain are still limited."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Asia Challenges U.S. Innovation Leadership, New Report Shows

Originally published at LeadEnergy

A major report released last week by the National Science Board concludes that U.S. global leadership in science and technology is declining as foreign nations – especially China and other Asian countries – rapidly develop their national innovation systems.

“U.S. dominance has eroded significantly… The data begin to tell a worrisome story,” stated Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development in President Obama’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The Director of the National Science Foundation, Arden Bement, noted that "China is achieving a dramatic amount of synergy by increasing its investment in science and engineering education, in research, and in infrastructure, which is attracting scientists from all over the world.”

The report, “Science and Engineering Indicators 2010,” is published every two years by the National Science Board, a 25-member expert council that advises the National Science Foundation, President, and Congress on science and technology policy, education, and research. Koizumi called it a “State of the Union on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

This “state of the union” for science and technology comes amidst growing concern that Asia is out-competing the U.S. in the burgeoning global clean-tech sector. According to the “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant” report I recently co-authored with the Breakthrough Institute and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, China, Japan, and South Korea have already surpassed the U.S. in the production of nearly all clean energy technologies, and these governments are expected to out-invest the U.S. three-to-one in this industry over the next five years. As U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu recently said, "The world is passing us by. We are falling behind in the clean energy race."

“Asia’s rapid ascent as a major world science and technology (S&T) center—beyond Japan—is driven by developments in China and several other Asian economies,” states the introduction to the report. “Governments [in Asia] have implemented a host of policies to boost S&T capabilities as a means to ensuring their economies’ competitive edge… the United States continues to maintain a position of leadership but has experienced a gradual erosion of its position in many specific areas.” According to Jose-Marie Griffiths, a member of the National Science Board, "While the US is the largest R&D performing nation — representing one-third of total world investment — Asia has narrowed the gap due to the sustained annual increases by China."

Read the full overview here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Solar and Biomass Plants to Work in Tandem in China

China’s plans to build 2,000 megawatts of solar thermal power using technology from a California company, eSolar, will also include the construction of biomass power plants to generate electricity when the sun sets.

The solar and biomass plants will share turbines and other infrastructure, reducing the projects’ cost and allowing around-the-clock electricity production, according to Bill Gross, eSolar’s chairman.

“That supercharges the economics of solar,” said Mr. Gross in a telephone interview, noting that the addition of biomass generation will allow power plants to operate at 90 percent of capacity.

Under terms of the deal announced Saturday in Beijing, eSolar will license its “power tower” technology to Penglai Electric, which will manage the construction of the power plants over the next decade.

Another Chinese company, the China Shaanxi Yulin Huayang New Energy Company, will own and operate the first projects to be built in the 66-square-mile Yulin Energy Park in northern China.

A local shrub grown in the surrounding region to fight desertification, called the sand willow, will supply fuel for the biomass power plants, according to Penglai Electric.

“It’s an economical use of a resource that’s already in place,” said Nathaniel Bullard, a solar analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research and consulting firm. “That’s a very savvy move, rather than attach an energy storage system to the solar project.”

(A 107-megawatt project in California being developed by a Portuguese developer plans to use a similar biomass hybrid solar design.)

As The Times’ Keith Bradsher pointed out in his story, one issue with solar power plants in China is the large amount of land they require.

Eric Wang, a spokesman for Penglai Electric, wrote in an e-mail message that the relatively small footprint of an eSolar plant compared with other solar technologies proved attractive to the Chinese developer of the $5 billion project.

ESolar’s power plants deploy fields of mirrors called heliostats to focus the sun’s rays on a water-filled boiler that on a tower. The heat vaporizes the water and the resulting high-pressure steam is piped to a power block, where it drives an electricity-generating turbine.

The company uses a software control system and imaging technology to control 176,000 small mirrors that form arrays at its standard 46-megawatt power plant. The software positions the mirrors to create a virtual parabola to focus the sun on the receiver tower. That allows eSolar to make the mirrors cheaply and pack them close together to reduce the size of the power plant.

Mr. Gross noted that in California unskilled workers need 15 minutes training to learn how to install the solar fields. “In China, they wanted to use untrained labor as well,” he said.

Map: China's oil empire

A neat graphic on China's foreign oil investments, via Joshua Keating of Foreign Policy.

"China's Economic Observer has put together the following map of overseas expansion by China's big three oil giants, CNOOC, CNPC, and Sinopec." (Click the graphic to get the interactive version.)

As Keating notes, "notably absent from this map is Sudan, where CNPC has extensive and very controversial holdings.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

More Electric Vehicles in Beijing

Cross-posted from China CSR

According to Beijing Youth Daily, Beijing will expand the use of electric vehicles in 2010 and will have a total of 5,000 new energy vehicles by 2012. The city will put an additional 200 electric buses and 1,000 electric sanitation vehicles into service this year.

To promote the production of new energy vehicles, Ministry of Science and Technology joined forces with the departments concerned in 2009 to promote a pilot program under which over ten Chinese cities are scheduled to pilot the use of about 1,000 new energy vehicles each over the next three years. As one of the ten model cities of the program, Beijing plans to bring the total number of new energy vehicles in the city to 5,000 by 2012.


What I'd love to see is more reports on the electrification of bikes and scooters in China, which are a significant and growing share of the electrical vehicle market.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

China Challenging the United States for World Wind Leadership

By J. Matthew Roney (Dec 10, 2009)

Leadership of the global wind market is about to change hands. The United States—the birthplace of the modern wind industry—has held the top spot in new installations since 2005, growing at 50 percent a year and adding a record 8,540 megawatts of wind generating capacity in 2008. But if the credit-crunched U.S. industry adds only 8,000 megawatts in 2009, as anticipated, China’s new installations of some 10,000 megawatts will make it the world leader in annual additions. Having doubled its installed capacity in each of the last five years, this relative newcomer is now poised to dominate the wind energy industry for years to come.

Nowhere is China’s bid for wind supremacy more evident than in its new Wind Base program. In 2008, the National Energy Administration selected six wind-rich locations as sites for wind mega-complexes of between 10,000 and 30,000 megawatts each. A seventh has since been added to the list. In August 2009 construction began on the first project, a 13,000-megawatt complex in the northwestern province of Gansu. When completed, these Wind Bases will total more than 110,000 megawatts of capacity, the generating equivalent of 110 coal-fired power plants.

The emergence of China as the new world wind market leader in 2009 follows an extraordinary 2008, the latest year for which complete data are available. World wind generating capacity grew 29 percent, adding a record 27,000 megawatts to reach 121,000 megawatts installed worldwide, enough to satisfy the residential electricity needs of nearly 200 million people.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Friedman Op-Ed in NY Times

Link is HERE

January 13, 2010
Is China the Next Enron?
By Thomas L. Friedman

Some Recent News Articles regarding Energy in China

In the recent Economist issue last year titled "Stopping Climate Change", there are a few great summary articles regarding China and climate change:

Two NYTimes articles from yesterday:

And finally, a Grist article relating to China, which happens about once a week. This one is a garden variety about China's recent solar burst.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

China Seeks to Dominate Clean-Tech Industry

I recently co-authored a report with the Breakthrough Institute and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation that performs the first comprehensive comparison of clean-tech industry competitiveness in China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. The full report overview is here, including media coverage and a video of the release event, which was hosted by the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.

"Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant" Report Overview

"Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant: Asian Nations Set to Dominate Clean Energy Race by Out-Investing the United States," a large new report recently released by the Breakthrough Institute and Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, is the first to comprehensively benchmark the competitive positions of the United States and key Asian challengers -- China, Japan and South Korea -- in the global clean energy race.

The report examines the competitive position of each nation in core clean energy technologies, including solar, wind, and nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, advanced vehicles and batteries, and high-speed rail, as well as the government strategies each nation hopes will strengthen its position in the global clean technology sector. The report also offers recommendations for U.S. federal policymakers for regaining U.S. competitiveness.

Full Report: Download Here (PDF)
Summary Version: Download Here (PDF)

China Cleantech Developments

A few recent clean-tech developments from China:

"China’s High-Speed-Rail Revolution"
MIT Technology Review

"China Making Bets on Concentrating Solar Power"
New York Times

"China Launches 16 Clean Energy R&D Centers"
People's Daily Online

GE Gets its Smart Grid Foot in a Very Large Door: China

From Greentech Media:

GE is planning to help hardwire a city of 1.5 million for smart grid. Is everyone now eyeing China?

Speaker at Y2E2 on January 13, Noon

The Collaboratory for Research on Global Projects would like to invite to the first CRGP Brown Bag seminar session of the quarter.

This will be held tomorrow Wednesday at 12 noon in room 270 in the Y2E2 building.

The first speaker is Mr.Li Kaimeng of the quarter who will be talking about Infrastructure Investment and Sustainable Development in China: Achievements, Problems, Cause and Future Prospects

Mr.Li Kaimeng is a visiting scholar at stanford university/CGRP department. He is the Director-general of the Center for Investment Project Feasibility Studies and Evaluation within China International Engineering Consulting Corporation (CIECC), which is the largest engineering project consulting firm owned by the central government of China.

Li Kaimeng is a senior research fellow in CIECC, and he has worked in CIECC for 14 years in project appraisal in terms of financial, economic, social and environmental impact analysis. He also had worked in the Macro-economic Research Academy of the National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC) for 4 years before he entered CIECC. As an On-job doctorate majored in Natural Resources and Environmental Economics in China Renmin University, he concentrates on the research for sustainable goals of investment in the whole project cycle.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Superlatives - China keeps rising

Recent statistics reveal China's sustained growth, which is breaking new records, even in the face of last year's worldwide economic slowdown:
  • China has "surged past the United States to become the world’s largest automobile market." (in units sold, not in dollars)
  • China "surpassed Germany as the biggest exporter of manufactured goods, according to year-end trade data."
  • The World Bank estimates that China will soon overtake Japan to become the No. 2 biggest economy in the world. It was only the world’s fifth-largest economy four years ago.
According to the New York Times:
"the shift of economic gravity to China has occurred partly because growth here remained robust even as the world’s developed economies suffered the steepest drop in trade and economic output in decades.

But that did not happen by chance: China’s decisive government intervention in the economy, combined with the defiant optimism of its companies and consumers, has propelled an economy that until recently had seemed tethered to the health of its major export markets, including the United States."

Indeed, Chinese media are in a celebratory mood:
The country’s economic miracle, the newspaper People’s Daily boasted last week, exists because its leaders -- unlike those in other, unnamed nations -- can make quick decisions and ensure underlings carry them out. The Great Recession, the newspaper said, has laid bare cracks in plodding Western-style capitalism.

(Hm ... I wonder if that's also an underhanded swipe at Western-style democracy ...)

However, as the article warns:
Sustaining a global-size economy is nowhere near as simple as building one, some Chinese and Western economists say. As the Chinese navigate toward a bigger role in the world financial system, they are already running into diplomatic and political headwinds.

At home, ordinary citizens and economists alike worry that the government’s decision to flood the economy with cash has created speculative bubbles -- in housing, in lending -- that could burst with disastrous effect. But curbing speculation requires moves, such as raising interest rates, that could crimp the sprees of investment and industrial expansion that are the main contributors to growth.

The Chinese government has played a substantial role in stimulating the economy, and some commentators (also in TIME, Asia Times, Financial Times) are worried that how the funding was distributed will reverse the trend of private sector expansion and return China to government-driven growth (though not necessarily government micromanagement). Many of the projects funded were SOEs, while a large number of private companies were left high and dry. (Also see a Carter Center report on the impact of stimulus spending on SOEs).

URL: (, 1/11/2010)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

eSolar's 2 GW Solar Thermal tech transfer

BEIJING – A U.S. solar power company said Saturday it will help build a series of solar thermal power plants in China, as the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases tries to decrease its heavy reliance on coal, imported gas and oil.

California-based eSolar Inc. will provide Shandong Penglai Electric Power Equipment Manufacturing Co. with the technology and information to build the concentrated solar thermal power farms with a capacity totaling 2,000 megawatts.

The $5 billion investment would be the largest such project in China, though the companies didn't say who would be investing how much.

"This is a huge jump for China," said Deborah Seligsohn, director of the China climate program for the U.S-based World Resources Institute. "That amount suggests a number of commercial plants."
Interest in China as a solar energy market is growing quickly as the government looks for alternatives to coal. Saturday's deal comes four months after the largest solar panel maker in the U.S., First Solar, struck a tentative deal to build a massive solar field in China.

The eSolar deal is for concentrated solar thermal power — not the traditional image of vast farms of solar panels, but a system of taking what essentially are mirrors and focusing them to heat water to create steam to power a generator. "There's room in the world for both systems, and we need both," Seligsohn said.

China is moving much faster than the U.S. in solar power development, eSolar officials said. "This is an excellent example of what we all must do to fight climate change," Merrick Kerr, eSolar's chief financial officer, told a news conference Saturday in Beijing. The first solar plant under the deal will be in Yulin city in the central province of Shaanxi.

China has set ambitious goals for solar and other renewable energy in an effort to clean up its environment and curb surging demand for imported oil and gas, which communist leaders see as a strategic weakness. Late last year, legislators approved changes to China's 2006 renewable energy law saying utilities will be required to buy all the power produced by wind farms and other renewable sources in an effort to reduce heavy reliance on coal.

Government goals issued in 2005 call for at least 15 percent of China's power to come from wind, solar and hydropower by 2020, up from 9 percent now. Officials say that target may be raised to 20 percent because the industry is developing so quickly.

Coal, however, provides two-thirds of China's power and is expected to remain the dominant energy source in coming years. China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and is not bound by global agreements on curbing emissions because it is a developing economy. But the State Council, or China's Cabinet, has promised to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide for each unit of economic output by 40 percent to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Cool talk on China wind coming up!

Hey everyone, there's an interesting talk on wind power and carbon offsets in China coming up. The talk will focus on whether or not wind energy in China should be considered "additional" with respect to Europe's carbon cap-and-trade system. See below:

Our first Energy Working Group talk of 2010 will be by two of our research associates –Gang He and Richard Morse. (The title and short description of the talk are provided below.) The talk will be held on Wednesday, January 20th from noon to 1:30pm at the Goldman conference room (fourth floor of Encina Hall East). Lunch will be provided.

The Controversy over Chinese Wind in the Clean Development Mechanism: Implications for Strengthening Global Carbon Offset Policy:
Gang He and Richard Morse examine one of the biggest controversies in the global carbon market – the additionality of Chinese wind power in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Addressing and moving beyond the binary question of whether such projects do or do not represent “real” CO2 reductions, they use insights drawn from detailed analysis of the entire Chinese wind CDM portfolio to argue that the current legal and economic structure of additionality is unworkable in the Chinese power sector when one takes into account how regulation and policy in those markets actually function. Therefore under the current CDM additionality regime, additionality cannot be credibly verified for Chinese wind – a problem that extends to multiple types of energy projects in numerous developing countries. In short, the controversy over Chinese wind illustrates the need for large-scale reforms of how the world validates carbon credits in developing world power sectors. In a post-Kyoto world that envisions a greatly expanded role for international carbon offsets, ensuring the integrity of carbon markets through smarter policy engagement with countries like China is more important than ever.

I hope to see all of you there!
Sunny Wang

Communications and Administrative Associate
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development
Freeman Spogli Institute
Encina Hall E419B
Stanford, CA 94305
P 650.724.1714 |
F 650.724.1717

Hope to see some of you there!

Best wishes,

Friedman: China Awakens

NY Times columnist Tom Friedman has a new piece on China's entry into the technological/national transformation race of the 21st century, what he dubs the "Energy Technology Revolution." Friedman says he has been "stunned to learn about the sheer volume of wind, solar, mass transit, nuclear and more efficient coal-burning projects that have sprouted in China in just the last year."

As an example, he quotes Bill Gross of eSolar, "a promising California solar-thermal start-up":

On Saturday, in Beijing ... Gross announced “the biggest solar-thermal deal ever. It’s a 2 gigawatt, $5 billion deal to build plants in China using our California-based technology. China is being even more aggressive than the U.S. We applied for a [U.S. Department of Energy] loan for a 92 megawatt project in New Mexico, and in less time than it took them to do stage 1 of the application review, China signs, approves, and is ready to begin construction this year on a 20 times bigger project!”

What it boils down to for China is this:

Yes, climate change is a concern for Beijing, but more immediately China’s leaders know that their country is in the midst of the biggest migration of people from the countryside to urban centers in the history of mankind. This is creating a surge in energy demand, which China is determined to meet with cleaner, homegrown sources so that its future economy will be less vulnerable to supply shocks and so it doesn’t pollute itself to death."

Despite the competitive nature of this Green Technology Revolution, there's still an important role for bilateral cooperation:

In the process, China is going to make clean power technologies cheaper for itself and everyone else. But even Chinese experts will tell you that it will all happen faster and more effectively if China and America work together — with the U.S. specializing in energy research and innovation, at which China is still weak, as well as in venture investing and servicing of new clean technologies, and with China specializing in mass production."

Friedman sums it up nicely: "It is clear that if we, America, care about our energy security, economic strength and environmental quality we need to put in place a long-term carbon price that stimulates and rewards clean power innovation. We can’t afford to be asleep with an invigorated China wide awake."

Article URL: (1/10/10)

I suppose my only quip is that, yes, China seems dedicated to acting on this. The question is how projects are executed, whether quality and performance can be assured, and whether local actors are empowered and incentivized to act. These would all be factors in determining the long-term success of this transformation.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Water, water ... (Plus, pollution in the Yellow River)

Great posting at Green Leap Forward on water availability in China. (I know some of you guys are "wet side" in CEE!)

"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."

And in other water-intersects-energy news:

"Chinese authorities are scrambling to protect the drinking water for tens of millions of people after a massive fuel leak into the Yellow River spilled into a reservoir yesterday [January 5]. A diesel pipeline from Lanzhou, in Gansu province, to Changsha, in Hunan province, was found leaking last Wednesday near the Chishui River, a tributary of the Weihe River, which flows into the Yellow River. The fuel reached the Sanmenxia reservoir on the Yellow River despite a huge effort to halt its spread."

Spill puts China water supplies at risk (The Australian)

Reporting on the original fuel spill last week here:

Large Oil Spill Reported in China (NYTimes)
China oil spill hits Yellow River (AFP)

Water pollution remains one of the most serious environmental challenges that China faces. As the AFP piece notes, "More than 30 years of unbridled economic growth have left most of China's lakes and rivers heavily polluted, while the nation's urban dwellers also face some of the world's worst air pollution. More than 200 million Chinese currently do not have access to safe drinking water, according to government data."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Green Giant--Beijing’s crash program for clean energy.

This is the recent New Yorker article Prof. Woodward mentioned in class. It gives a great overview of what China is doing in energy sector.

Green Giant
Beijing’s crash program for clean energy.
by Evan Osnos

Read more:

Cold weather ...

Since we are having a session on geography and climate tomorrow, I thought a story on the impact of a recent cold snap in China would be appropriate.

Cold weather sparks energy shortage in China
By Zhao Chunzhe / China Daily
Updated: 2010-01-06

Seven provinces are capping their electricity capacity and Beijing is to cut its gas supply to industrial users due to an energy crisis sparked by the cold weather, reported today.

A strong cold snap heading to most parts of the southeast has left Shanghai and Chongqing municipality, Jiangsu, Hubei, Henan, Hunan and Jiangxi province to reach their electricity peak forcing a fuel shortage.

While most coal mines in China are located in the north, heavy snow has blocked the railway transportation of coal, the report said.

Beijing was also hit by its heaviest snow for forty years and the municipal government announced a gas emergency yesterday which prompted a reduction in gas to industries in order to satisfy residential use first.

A more detailed look from Reuters here looks at the larger implications, and has some good details on how natural gas is used.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chinese Solar on The Good 100

The original post (copied below) and the rest of the "collection of the most important, exciting, and innovative people, ideas, and projects making our world better" can be found here.

Here Comes the (Chinese) Sun: How Chinese innovation is going to revolutionize solar power for the rest of the world

Residents of the city of Rizhao claim to be the first Chinese to greet the sun each day as it rises from the Yellow Sea. In fact, the city’s name is a condensed form of the Chinese phrase ri qu shien zhao, which literally means “first to get sunshine.” They also make some of the best use of the more than 100 kilowatt-hours of power the sun pours down on each square meter of Earth over the course of a sunny day.

Though Rizhao’s 3 million residents are seemingly overshadowed by nearby Qingdao—a larger city famous worldwide for its eponymous beer (you might know it as Tsingtao)—Rizhao boasts perhaps a bigger distinction: It is the first city in all of China to pledge to become carbon-neutral.

That China has surpassed the United States to become the leading emitter of greenhouse gases is no secret. The Chinese curse on the climate will have to be reckoned with, but the Chinese also have a gift to give the world: developing cheap renewable energy sources, particularly solar power. Low-cost manufacturing in China is transforming the entire array of clean energy sources, like previously expensive photovoltaic cells—and, in the process, helping to clean up the world’s energy supply.

Witness Rizhao. Rooftops in newly constructed apartment blocks as well as on the houses in the surrounding countryside are often covered in angled panels of dark tubing. The tubes soak up sunlight, using its warmth to heat water within and eliminate the need to burn fossil fuel or suck up electricity for that purpose. Such solar hot-water heaters are mandatory, and are responsible (along with all the city’s other solar efforts) for cutting energy use compared to alternatives by 348 million kilowatt-hours per year—cutting greenhouse gases at the same time. That’s enough electricity to power more than 30,000 U.S. homes for a year.

Indeed, China has become the world’s largest market for and producer of such solar hot-water devices, which have become cheaper than traditional electric or gas-fired varieties thanks to this growing demand. Companies like Himin Solar Energy Group churn out solar hot-water heaters from factories big enough to build jumbo jets; China as a whole installed 246 million square feet of solar hot-water-heater panels in 2007.

And it’s not just hot water that Rizhao gets from the sun, as evidenced by the gleaming arrays of blue-black photovoltaic cells beneath the lampposts lining the seashore of this resort town.

Rizhao has company in its use of the sun. In Jiangsu Province outside Shanghai lies China’s “Solar Valley,” which took its name from our own Silicon Valley, and which focuses on the same element. After all, silicon, a semiconductor, is an important component of both computer chips and solar cells.

Suntech, a photovoltaic company with the world’s largest production capacity and JA Solar both have facilities in Jiangsu; globally, Suntech can churn out enough panels in a year to produce—under ideal conditions—1 gigawatt of energy.

Suntech alone has given China—and the world—its first solar billionaire: Shi Zhengrong, who has built the company into a solar powerhouse since its founding, in 2001. And unlike competitors such as Q-Cells, from Germany; Sharp, from Japan; and the U.S.-based SunPower; among others, Suntech has opted not to automate its production processes.

“We’ve chosen to rely on labor for the obvious reason of cost: Labor rates are so much lower [in China],” says Steve Chadima, the U.S. spokesman for Suntech. “We can more easily crank up or down our operations depending on market demand.”

And it’s not just workers that come cheap in China: “Glass, aluminum—all those materials are less expensive in China than they are in the U.S. or Europe,” Chadima notes. “All the way around there’s low cost.”

That has led many foreign manufacturers to open operations in China or elsewhere in Asia. Evergreen Solar, for example, a Massachusetts-based company, recently opened a Chinese factory, while panel producer First Solar has built several factories capable of cranking out more than 500 megawatts’ worth of solar cells in Malaysia.

And that means, ultimately, cheap solar power. “It’s very possible to get down to something in the range of one dollar per watt to manufacture a silicon solar panel,” Chadima says, though U.S. panel prices in July were more than $4.50 per watt.

But, as an example, Chadima points to the 30-megawatt system that the power company Austin Energy is building with Suntech PV modules in Texas. Austin Energy expects to charge just 17 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. That’s not much more than the roughly 13 cents per kilowatt-hour residential customers paid on average for electricity this past May in that state.

“In the case of solar, China has an advantage in its manufacturing capacity,” says Li Junfeng, the secretary general of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association. “It can produce large quantities of products at a relatively low cost.”

Cheap, in this case, does not mean poor quality. Suntech, for example, is considered one of the top five solar-cell producers in the world in terms of quality and has been used in projects from Germany to the United States.
“Within three to four years, we’ll be talking about the pure economic benefit of photovoltaics.”

Like its international competitors, Suntech offers a range of products, including advanced solar cells; its highly efficient, more expensive Pluto module can turn as much as 19 percent of the sunlight that falls on it into electricity. “In this case, you’ve got essentially a company known as a low-cost leader but, at the same time, introducing some of the highest technology in the world,” notes Bates Marshall of Sixtron, a Canadian company that peddles solar-cell-manufacture technology.

Across the market, however, quality can still be a concern. While some of the finest solar cells in the world come from China, there are a host of smaller companies producing even cheaper, lower-quality cells. “There are three to five name-brand module companies and maybe 160 total module manufacturers,” Marshall adds. There are “a lot of no-name panels coming out of China that have some dubious quality.”

Regardless, as soon as 2011, Marshall predicts, modules could cost as little as $1.40 apiece, which will put them in the same price range as other energy sources. “Within three to four years, we’ll be talking about the pure economic benefit of photovoltaics,” Marshall says.

And that’s just in the United States. “All the solar photovoltaics are for export with a very small share for domestic use,” CREIA’s Li notes of Chinese-made solar panels. But “Chinese companies are being optimistic about the future because the government has set all these targets for carbon-emission reduction.”

Rizhao, for its part, has a host of clean competitors—and that’s a good thing. Dezhou City, also in Shandong Province, boasts Himin’s 200,000-square-foot factory for making solar hot-water heaters as well as other solar-power manufactures. Baoding, a city in Hebei Province, offers solar, wind, and other renewable energy manufacturing. And Wuxi, in Jiangsu, is home to Suntech, among others. The Chinese government, for its part, aims to install 1.8 gigawatts of solar power nationwide by 2020—but expects to more than quadruple that goal on current progress.

Rizhao is one of just four cities worldwide to even attempt so-called carbon neutrality (the others being Arendal, Norway; Vancouver, Canada; and Växjö, Sweden), according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

To reach its goal, Rizhao will have to employ an arsenal of environmental improvements, from a so-called circular economy, in which industrial waste gets cycled back as energy, to harvesting the power offered for free by the city’s 260 days of yearly sunshine.

As a result of these efforts, Rizhao, unlike the rest of China, is using nearly a third less energy while cutting its carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent.

Solar, it seems, is rising in the east.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

LNG deals galore!

Energy giant PetroChina Co. Ltd. has pulled out of a $40 billion deal to buy natural gas from a project off Australia, leaving Woodside Petroleum Ltd. looking for new customers.

China pulls out of US$40bil gas deal with Australia (1/5/10)


However, the first cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) bought by PetroChina on the spot market arrived at Shanghai on Saturday, part of a plan to increase supply to ease domestic gas shortages in the winter. The 65,000 tons of LNG (around 90 million cubic meters after regasification) was carried by a Russian LNG carrier. It will be pumped into gas networks in Shanghai, allowing PetroChina to divert an equivalent amount of gas to other regions with high demand this winter, via its flagship west-to-east gas pipeline.

PetroChina, the top Chinese gas firm, will incur a loss of more than 60 million yuan ($8.79 million) on the imported gas, because it is priced higher than the state-set price at which it must sell to Shanghai.

PetroChina's first spot LNG purchase arrives home (1/4/10)


Moving forward, "China hopes to clinch more deals on liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports and speed up construction of LNG receiving terminals, gas pipeline and storage facilities this year, the country's energy head said. The country will take advantage of the current excess supply in the international LNG market to speed up negotiations of overseas gas purchases, Zhang Guobao [head of the National Energy Administration] said Monday.... He noted that construction of LNG receiving terminals including Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Shandong will be pushed forward this year."

China will also further develop major gas fields in central and western China as well as offshore gas resources to maintain fast increases in domestic gas output.

The government will also approve a third gas pipeline linking Shaanxi and Beijing and a new pipe connecting Qinghuangdao city in Hebei province to Shenyang, capital of northeastern Liaoning province.

[Article also has some notes on coal-to-liquids and coal-to-gas projects.]

China eyes LNG import deals, private oil stockpiles (1/4/10)


Earlier last month, PetroChina's little brother, SinoPec agreed to buy 2 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year for 20 years from ExxonMobil's Papua New Guinea LNG project. The gas will go to a planned LNG terminal at Qingdao in Shandong province, which will have an annual capacity of 3 million tons in its first phase, rising to 5-6 million tons a year in a later second phase, SinoPec's state-owned parent company, Sinopec Group, said on its website

Sinopec has planned the Qingdao terminal for several years but it had made little progress as it has not been able to secure LNG supplies, lagging behind rivals CNOOC and PetroChina, which already have three and two terminals respectively, at various states of development. It is also waiting for approval on an LNG terminal it hopes to build in Zhuhai.

Sinopec signs up Exxon for first LNG deal (12/3/09)

China to be #3 in Wind

A government official said China will become the world’s third-largest producer of electricity from wind by the end of 2009.

According to Shi Lishan, vice-president of the Renewable Energy Department in the National Energy Administration, China's installed wind power capacity reached 20 GW in 2009, overtaking Spain. China now ranks behind only the US and Germany.

The US had installed capacity of 25.2 GW of wind power in 2008 (about 20.8% of world capacity), Spain 16.8 GW and China 12.2 GW, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). (Global wind capacity reached 121.188 GW last year.)

"In terms of scale and rhythm, the development of wind energy in China is absolutely unparalleled in the world", said last month Steve Sawyer, secretary general of GWEC. "If they maintain the current trend they will be the first in the world in terms of installed capacity at the end of 2011."

China to be 3rd biggest wind power producer: media (12/30/2009)
CN:China ranks third in worldwide wind energy
China To Become Third-Largest Windpower Producer (1/1/2010)