China Rises to Efficiency Challenge
By Bill Moore
China has the world's second most carbon-intensive economy after the United States. It also is home to more than a billion human beings with growing aspirations for many of the goods and services long enjoyed by the West, including cars and air conditioning.
If the Chinese, with 20% of the world's population -- someday approach the per capita energy consumption of the average American, the world will be in serious trouble environmentally, and in all likelihood, geopolitically. Today, China emits 11% of all the carbon dioxide emitted worldwide, surpassed only the United States at more than double this amount annually (25%).
"China is on a much faster carbon trajectory (and is) likely to surpass the US in carbon emissions by 2020, although the Chinese dispute this," stated Douglas Ogden, the director of the China Sustainable Energy Program. They have an aggressive energy efficiency policy, so they don't see overtaking the US for quite some time." To Part One
"But you now the atmosphere is a global commons and what China puts into the atmosphere is challenging the integrity of the air the whole planet breathes, and similarly for the United States," Ogden told EV World.
"We as a foundation spend 75% of our resources in the United States. So we feel the United States needs to step up and take responsibility first for these problems, and take a leadership role by encouraging the kinds of efficiency and renewable energy technologies that can be the cost effective solution to the changing chemistry of our atmosphere."
Meanwhile At the White House...
Even before the Bush Administration's National Energy Plan was unveiled this week (though there have been numerous hints and deliberate leaks along the way), Ogden commented on what he saw as "retrograde"policies emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
"We try to do what we can to raise the profile of energy efficiency technology. You know the current administration is focusing on conservation and shutting things off rather than realizing there's a real revolution that's underway in more efficient technologies and we need to encourage those technologies into the marketplace. We need a national energy efficiency policy more than we need a kind of fossil supply policy."
Aiding A Potential Adversary?
"Let me say that the Energy Foundation's program deals solely with clean energy technology policy," Ogden commented when asked about the growing mood among conservative American politicians that China is a political and military adversary that we need to be weary of. " These political questions are not really in the purview of what we do," he replied.
However, Ogden was willing to share his personal views of the Chinese people, in general. "I don't see China as seeking hegemony in the world. China's defense spending, although growing, is twenty times less than US defense spending. So, in terms of looking at China as a potential adversary and leading towards military conflict, I am hopeful that we have cooler heads than that and that our policy makers in the United States will view China as a business partner more than a political adversary.
"China has had a long period here where it has had an economy that hasn't been growing very quickly. It feels behind in the world. It is taking sometimes unfair, unreasonable approaches to try to get ahead competitively to improve its economic standing in the world and improve development for its people.
"China's people are poor. The per capita income averages US$870 per year. The United States is at US$30,000. China wants to catch up. So China does have this competitive drive to get there and we should acknowledge that. We should be helpful to China's development by engaging in fair trade. But China also needs to understand that the rule of law must define its development. To the extent the United States can engage China and encourage its legal reform so that it has transparent commercial laws, transparent accounting standards - - the kinds of things that are necessary for building a competitive economy - - those are fruitful areas of engagement and I hope that we'll try to give those highest priority over the more militaristic discussions we've been hearing.
China Highly Appreciative
According to Ogden, the Chinese with whom the Project deals are highly appreciative of its efforts in their behalf. "They find that our policy focus is very useful to government decision makers, helping them attain their energy efficiency goals. The Chinese wish there were more programs like ours." He added that the Europeans have begun to participate in similar bi-lateral programs, as have the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.
"But the Chinese have been miffed by the anemic financial commitments of the US Government to deliver good energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to China. The United States Government as entered a number of commitments to deliver US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy efficiency programs to China, but the Congress has not allowed the kind of funding necessary to back up those commitments. And so the United States has a lot of work to do. And there is a lot of fruitful ground to play with the Chinese to encourage these kinds of policies that in turn can build the kind of robust efficiency and renewable energy market that can benefit US industry, as well as the domestic industry in China."
Is Renewable Energy Really Up to the Task in China?
EV World pointed out to Ogden that the Three Gorges Dam currently under construction in China, despite being the world's largest hydroelectric project when completed, will still only meet about 3% of the nation's electricity needs. The obvious question then is can renewables really play a meaningful role in China -- and by extension elsewhere in the developed and developing world?
He responded by first admitting that projects like the Three Gorges Dam have often not benefited from careful economic scrutiny. "Economics as a discipline in China has a ways to go, so that people are really looking at costs and benefits of these mega-projects.
"The wind energy potential in China is huge," Ogden pointed out. "China could power its entire country with the amount of wind that's blowing through Inner Mongolia and a lot along the whole belly area of China, Fujian and Guangdong. Wind in this country, in the United States is the fastest and now cheapest and cleanest form of new energy. There are a number of wind energy companies that would like to do business in China. China would like to develop its own domestic industry. It's committed to increasing the capacity of renewable energy over the next decade sixteen-fold. So China is moving ahead aggressively. It does have a long way to go
"It has a very solid, small wind turbine industry. China is a major exporter of small wind turbines throughout Asia," Ogden pointed out. He added that they would like to manufacture even larger units in the 650kW range.
Despite the Bush Administration's contention that wind energy is not as economical as fossil fuel-generated electricity, Ogden and many others contend this is not true. He cited examples where long term contracts are being signed today in the US for electricity from wind farms at rates as low as 4 cents a kilowatt hour.
Not only does wind energy have great promise in China - - and elsewhere - - solar energy also looks promising. The nation is developing a fairly good photovoltaic panel manufacturing infrastructure, though Ogden suggested there is still room for improvement in the quality of the final product. (Editor's note: We charge EV World's Currie electric bicycle with a pair of Chinese-made 5watt PV panels. We paid the equivalent of US$5/Watt for them last winter).
Measuring the Project's Progress
The China Sustainable Energy Program measures its success in terms of the amount of energy saved and new renewable energy mega-watts built.
"Our aim is an ambitious one," he said. " To encourage a regulatory framework in China to encourage these markets in efficiency and renewable energy technology." While he readily admits that he doesn't yet have the numbers to point to, Ogden did say that the Project was instrument in helping China develop a new air conditioning efficiency standard. This was an important milestone for the project because China is the world's largest air conditioning manufacturer.
"Just the next five years anticipated growth in air conditioner usage in China will absorb the entire output of the Three Gorges Dam. So, the new air conditioner standard which (sic) improves efficiency 22% will displace a dozen large coal-fired power plants over the next decade or so."
"Nevertheless, this undertaking is a large one, it's a hard one. There is great, world-class work going on in Beijing, Shanghai, some of the other major cities, but getting policies to become effectively implemented in the provinces is our greatest challenge."
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