China Now | Why China's Energy Plan is Working
Pause for a moment and contemplate what China's energy brings to mind, while I share a short word on popular media. Globally we all ingest media, an often uncensored menu on today's tough issues, sending some of us ever deeper into a depressing vision of imminent global environmental catastrophe. Western media has provided a decidedly issues driven perspective as we've been keen to amplified social and environmental issues about how our global neighbors are screwing things up for the rest of us. "Finger-pointing climate reporters" have perhaps served a good purpose in providing insight on important environmental issues but have also provided a problem-biased one dimensional perspective on some of our serious global concerns, talking less about the amazing solutions underway, which I personally find effortlessly more fascinating. In effect we often create propaganda that sadly only serves to feed a world view that needs to gripe and wallow. What I know for sure in 2010 is that Chinese energy is changing rapidly in answer to needed energy management measures and environmental protection efforts. China's energy revolution is happening largely from within and is very well managed.
China today is approaching an estimated population of 1.4 billion and by land area is the largest country in the world. Their one child policy introduced in the late 70's slowed population growth, but as we know their intense coal and chemical industries have affected the well being of their citizens and the global environment. Energy demands are high and energy systems antiquated, but what we see today is China answering the call to change how it creates and manages energy, with a clear intent of guarding it's natural habitats for future generations.
The changes being made are dramatic and swift. This month alone the government has ordered 2000 outmoded industrial plants to close by the end of September, in it's effort to clean up and restructure energy production and address inefficiencies in the industrial and public sectors, aiming toward a stronger global economy. Stiff consequences are in place for non-compliance. This new directive is aimed at some of China's largest companies like China Aluminum Corp., demonstrating how serious they are. The drive for change is partly in effort to meet a long standing goal to cut energy consumption by 20% by 2010, achieved with the help of key government energy policies and financial backing. These decisions would seem heavy handed, but are we seeing a nation transforming because of China's tough love approach?
Six year's ago China's government began implementing 10 key energy efficiency commitments aimed at government, industry and residential sectors. Those efforts are technical improvements that reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiencies including:
- the introduction of energy efficient lighting in all sectors
- overall optimization of current energy systems
- energy conservation and efficiency improvement of buildings
- coal-burning factory boiler renovations
- motor system and pumps improvements for heating and cooling systems
- oil conservation and replacement
- government directed creation of or acquisition of new energy efficient products
- regular monitoring and enforced improvement of existing energy systems
- waste processing heat and power recovery
- combining waste and heating processes closer to home in focused regional efforts
Many of these objectives are being achieved by targeting China's Top 1000 energy consuming Companies, a more focused effort that started in 2006. Combined, these companies account for about 1/3 of China's energy use and equivalent CO2 emissions. Through an evaluation process companies can apply to receive financial incentives to improve building energy efficiency and energy systems operations. Companies across China also receive financial awards provided for coal reduction efforts. Their goal to reduce CO2 emissions to the tune of 100 million tons by 2010 is a target they are not only meeting but are set to exceed this year. Solid energy policies with clear commitments and goals, political will, international cooperation, strategic organization, and a system of natural consequences and rewards, are quickly carrying China toward a low carbon future.
In 2009 China made the most investments in renewable energy at home, compared to other top clean energy nations. Notable renewable energy projects in China include the Renewable Energy Development Project started in 2001, aimed at supplying rural households and institutions with wind and solar energy solutions; construction of wind farms in inner Mongolia; and a plan to build the largest solar park in the world, in a region called the Ordos plateau, also in inner Mongolia. Last fall U.S. First Solar was said to have made a deal with China to build the solar park, however contention over bidding for the project from solar competitors within China seems to indicate otherwise. Only a few days ago China WindPower Group Ltd. signed an agreement to create hybrid wind-solar projects in the provinces of Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning and Jilin, so we can't say if First Solar will keep this deal until more details emerge. Who ever builds the planned solar project will create a 40 km square solar park, which would supply clean energy to 3 million homes, equivalent to 2 billion watts.
State Grid Corp.of China (SGCC) the 8th largest corporation in the world, is presently working on smart grid technology as well as building ultra-high voltage lines or UHV lines, with the goal of reducing energy costs and improving energy distribution in China. UHV lines provide a power transmission solution that can carry more energy over longer distances without much loss of power, and offers lower environmental impacts. It's a viable but expensive solution for highly populated countries like China or India that can help to manage energy distribution produced from a variety of national energy sources in distant regions. UHV lines will continue to be built in China over the next 3-4 years, and stand to double the current kv (kilovolt) transmission capacity of China's current power grid. When completed the new transmission lines are estimated to prevent 25 million tons of CO2 from polluting the environment annually.
SGCC, who accepted China's outstanding corporate citizen award for 2009, also aims to meet 35% of energy demand with smart grid technology by 2020. The company's strong values on environmental stewardship and social responsibility form it's corporate vision serving to build a smart energy future for China. Smart grid technology introduces better management of energy consumption and distribution at main points on the grid and can include smart meters, and end user controls. Smart grid technology addresses a global urgency to upgrade aging power grids.
China's energy-efficient and new-energy vehicle pilot program is working to see public transportation needs haven't been left behind. Electric vehicle projects in China are being developed in cooperation with Better Place, a company founded by Shai Agassi in 2007 which has quickly become the leading electric vehicle service provider on the planet. China is ambitiously working to replace the combustion engine on it's roadways. With a smaller percentage of China's population owning cars, the electric car concept is fast on it's way to dominating transportation needs within the country through ev car ownership and electric public transportation. Better Place partners with car manufacturers and governments to implement lithium ion battery powered electric cars and charging stations. EV car owners can stop into battery switch stations, that are so efficiently designed, it's much like going through a car wash.
So how is it that China is excelling in clean energy and energy efficiency development so rapidly. They understand the unquantified value of cooperation. Without cooperation any nation stands to lag dramatically, in our mutual quest to switch to clean energy systems and protect the environment - a key tenant laid out in Copenhagen last year. I had often wondered how it was that BP took so long to stop oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, and the answer hit me one day. They lacked a healthy measure of cooperation and working relationships with other energy groups and technology sectors. Who came to BP's aid in the end and what partnerships assisted their efforts to stop the oil leak? They've plugged the leak but it was a painfully slow response to a serious environmental disaster. Cooperation is needed to realize the clean energy future we know we can achieve and to tackle the tough environmental effects of how we've been living on the planet.
We'll continue to read critical analysis of China, whether well-founded or not, one thing is sure, their energy future is looking quickly brighter and their skies clearer, and that is very encouraging.
Source: Solar Home Review
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