You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘cleantech’ tag.


The China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia (CPGP) is a non-profit organization that promotes collaboration on public/private cleantech initiatives between Philadelphia and the People’s Republic of China. We operate on the principles of openness, inclusivity, and transparency in order to maximize engagement from all relevant stakeholders throughout the Philadelphia area. Our objective is to accelerate job creation, attract investment, and support cleantech business incubation in Greater Philadelphia through strategic linkages to leading Chinese corporate, governmental, and academic organizations. CPGP leverages both established and emerging programs and initiatives including:

  • The new $129 million Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC) for energy efficient buildings, funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
  • The City of Philadelphia’s 30-year old official Sister City relationship with Tianjin, China. Tianjin, the fastest-growing Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in China, also has a national mandate for clean energy leadership under China’s 11th and 12th Fiver-Year Plans
  • The $150 million U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) program, with a dedicated building energy efficiency initiative led by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) in the US and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) in China

CPGP harnesses the Greater Philadelphia region’s broad base of resources and expertise to create synergy between regional and national initiatives in both countries through a single innovative program focused on cleantech jobs, business development, and investment. To support these goals, we have developed plans for:

  • Export & investment initiatives including an open-consortium incubator (involving government, academia, business, and related associations) planned for the Philadelphia Navy Yard and leading to a world-class public demonstration facility
  • A CEO Summit entitled, “Greater Philadelphia & China: Toward a Sustainable Future,” planned for the spring 2012 focused on four areas: carbon finance, water, green building, and clean energy
  • An official U.S. State Department city EcoPartnership with Tianjin, China
  • The expansion of our already extensive network of universities and think tanks on the local, regional, national, and international levels.

The Partnership includes members from a wide range of Philadelphia area stakeholders. Business: Capitol Project Partners, The China Business Network, Cozen O’Connor, Delmarva Group LLC, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Ecolibrium Group, GreenWorld Capital LLC, HSBC, KSW Consulting, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp, VerdeStrategy, White and Williams LLP. Government: City of Philadelphia, International Visitors Council. Academic: Academy of Natural Sciences, Drexel University, Penn International Sustainability Association, Temple University, University of Pennsylvania’s T.C. Chan Center. Associations: Global China Connection, Greater Philadelphia China Center for Culture and Commerce. (Note: All work conducted by these organizations is done by individuals on a pro-bono basis.)

For further information, please contact Deputy Executive Director Nora Sluzas at nsluzas@post.harvard.edu

The following post was co-authored by Shawn Lesser (Watershed Capital Group) and me and appeared initially on the Cleantechies blog:

A number of the cleantech efforts between the United States and China reflect the need for cooperation on issues surrounding climate change and clean energy as it is a major factor in the relations of these two countries. Although there are still issues to resolve in many of the collaborations, it is believed that if the United States and China can continue in their cleantech collaborations, that it will show the world that two major players on the international platform are serious about combating the challenge of climate change, and it will also encourage other countries to create alliances. Through collaboration, the two largest greenhouse gas emitters will be able to create technologies required to combat climate change. Not only that, but tangible benefits will be developed, not just for the United States and China, but the world as a whole.

1) United States – China Ten Year Framework for Cooperation on Energy and Environment was established in 2008, and it “facilitates the exchange of information and best practices to foster innovation and develop solutions to the pressing environment and energy challenges both countries face.” It also led to the creation of “EcoPartnerships” – a way to encourage both United States and Chinese stakeholders to strengthen their commitment to sustainable economic development within the local level.

2) United States – China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) has its main headquarters in both countries. It will facilitate research and development of technology by a team of leading scientists and engineers in the clean technology industry. The research center receives both private and public funding which is split evenly for each country. The initial research priorities of the United States – China Clean Energy Research Center includes building energy efficiency, clean vehicles, and clean coal, which includes carbon capture and storage. It was founded in 2009 by United States President Barak Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. The goal of the research center is to “build a foundation of knowledge, technologies, human capabilities, and relationships in mutually beneficial areas that will position the United States and China for a future with very low energy intensity and highly efficient multi-family residential and commercial buildings.”

3) United States – China Energy-Efficient Buildings (CERC-EEB) Action Plan enables the United States and China to work alongside the private sector in an effort to develop energy efficient rating systems and building codes, benchmark industry energy efficiency, provide training to building inspectors as well as energy efficiency auditors at industrial facilities, synchronize test procedures and performance metrics for consumer products that are energy efficient, exchange energy efficient labeling systems best practices, and assemble a new annual United States – China Energy Efficiency Forum. The action plan will be achieved through green building and communities, industrial energy efficiency, consumer products standards, advanced energy efficiency technology, and public and private engagement.

4) United States – China Electric Vehicles (CERC-EV) Initiative builds upon the previous United States – China Electric Vehicle Forum which was held in 2009. The initiative comes from the shared interest in increasing the utilization of electric vehicles to decrease oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions, while promoting viable economic growth. This initiative includes a joint standard in development, demonstration projects in multiple cities in each country, technical road mapping, as well as projects to provide the public with more information.

5) 21st Century Coal Program (CERC-ACTV) promotes a cleaner use of coal resources, such as large-scale carbon capture and storage projects. The program calls for collaboration between a number of companies in the United States, including General Electric, AES, and Peabody Energy, which will be working with a number of Chinese companies to develop an integrated gasification combined cycle power plants, methane capture, as well as a number of other technologies.

6) China Greentech Initiative was founded in 2008 and has rapidly grown to become the only China-international collaboration platform of 100+ organizations, focused on identifying, developing and promoting green technology solutions in China. CGTI released its first free public deliverable, The China Greentech Report at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, China in 2009. With over 50,000 copies in use, the report is commonly referred to as the ‘primer’ by which to understand China’s greentech markets.

7) United States Alliances in Chinese Cleantech Industry includes the availability of a number of United States cleantech companies to invest into the Chinese cleantech industry. Currently, many companies from the United States are finding opportunities through alliances and cleantech and capital technology transfer investments. This leads to an increase in opportunities to assist cleantech into becoming one of the largest industries on a global platform. There has been much in the way of cross-border collaboration in many cleantech sectors, including solar and wind generation, water technologies, smart grid infrastructures, and electric transportation.

8 ) United States – China Renewable Energy Partnership develops roadmaps for widespread and continual renewable energy research, development and deployment in the United States and China, including renewable energy road mapping, regional deployment solutions, grid modernization, advanced renewable energy technology research and development collaboration in advanced biofuels, wind, and solar technologies, and public-private engagement to promote renewable energy and expand bilateral trade and investment via a new United States – China Renewable Energy Forum held annually. In connection with the U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership, another important area of U.S.-China cooperation is the Shale Gas Initiative.

9) United States – China Energy Cooperation Program describes itself as the only non-governmental organization that focuses on the United States – China business development within the clean energy sector. The partnership’s purpose is to “promote commercially viable project development work in clean energy and energy efficiency, and support the sustainable development of the energy sectors in both countries.” It was founded in Beijing in 2009, initiative by the United States commercial sector, and provides a vehicle allowing companies from both countries to work together and pursue clean sector market opportunities, address any trade impediments, and increase sustainable development.

10) Key U.S.-China Regional Cooperation Initiatives. An important layer of ‘connectivity’ in the U.S.-China clean energy business landscape is provided by long-standing, regionally-based cooperative initiatives. Top among these are the U.S.-China Green Energy Council (based in the Bay Area), the U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum (based in Greater Seattle with a Washington DC presence), and the Joint U.S.-China Cooperation on Clean Energy (based in Beijing, Shanghai and Washington DC).

Article by Shawn Lesser & Terry Cooke.

Shawn is president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co- founder of the Global Cleantech Cluster Association (GCCA), and can be reached at shawn.lesser@sworldcap.com

Terry Cooke is Strategic Advisor for Global Partnerships for the Global Cleantech Cluster Association (GCCA).  He is also a 2010 Public Policy Scholar on U.S.-China Clean Energy at the Woodrow Wilson Center and author of the forthcoming Sustaining U.S.-China Clean Energy Cooperation being published by the Kissinger Institute of the Wooldrow Wilson Center.   His website is www.terrycooke.com .


A personal note:

The Greater Philadelphia region stands on twin thresholds  — as the new national innovation center for research and commercialization of energy efficient buildings in the U.S. and, potentially, as an economic partner to China in this priority sector under that country’s new 12th Five Year Plan (2011-5).  What’s the bottom line for the region if it manages to sync with the speed and scale of China’s transformation of its commercial and residential building infrastructure?  Delivering for our region the extraordinary levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), high-value exports, and jobs which Chicago secured six weeks ago through Hu Jintao’s visit.

What’s needed?

First, the context: The article below describes the state of play – involving both market opportunity and political risk – for the U.S./China clean energy sector at the time of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington DC in January 2011:  Clean Energy: U.S.-China Cooperation and Competition (The full collection is available for download at FPRI )

Second, the megaphone: The China Business Network is in the final count-down for launching its Green Development Channel. Check out here to see how the site is looking on the launch-pad and how it will help amplify the message about opportunities for clean energy engagement with China once it is launched.

Third, the  springboard: There are some exciting events upcoming in the region this year focusing on China, Tianjin and 21st c. energy opportunity. Events in the early summer (June) and fall (Sept-Oct) will be announced soon. Stay tuned.

Finally, the moment: As I’ve described fully in my forthcoming book  Sustaining U.S.-China Clean Energy Cooperation (Woodrow Wilson Center/Kissinger Institute), the action with China clean energy is now moving from politically-driven Washington D.C. to commercially-driven regional economies – principally, Greater Philadelphia & the Bay Area (for energy-efficient buildings) , Ann Arbor/Detroit (electric vehicles) and West Virginia (clean coal). It’s a good time for Greater Philadelphia — a prime beneficiary of this trend —  to focus on this opportunity now that our economy is strengthening.  My book provides, hopefully, a clear and straight-forward read — just 120 pages — of the current landscape of U.S./China clean energy cooperation and competition.  It gives equal attention to technology developments, investment opportunity/risk, and policy dynamics.

These twin, intertwined strands of opportunity — regionally-based energy innovation connected to global market opportunity through China — are my full focus.  My goal is to provide a clear and concise ‘wiring diagram’ of the regional, national and global ‘connection points’ associated with this opportunity.  My partners in this effort are The China Business Network,  The T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation & Energy Studies (UPenn/Tsinghua), The Foreign Policy Research Institute, The Greater Philadelphia China Center for Culture & Commerce, Gerson Lehrman Group, Capitol Project Partners, and GC3 Strategy.

I welcome your involvement and support.

Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, is looking for a makeover – a green one. The goal of Philadelphia is to reduce the city’s vulnerability to rising energy costs. As such, its research, development, and investment into the area of cleantech have made it one of the top cities in the United States when it comes to renewable energy and energy efficiency. The current mayor Michael Nutter, in his 2008 inaugural address, pledged to make this city the number one green city in America, and created the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability in that sense.

1) The Navy Yard. The Navy Yard plays a key part in the commitment to turn Philadelphia into the “Greenest City in America.” All buildings in the Navy Yard must register with the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) program. This once eyesore is now being converted into a central location for new green energy jobs and clean energy innovation. Not only that, but in a time of recession, the completion of the Navy Yard will provide new, permanent employment opportunities. For example, a large European home energy efficiency company, Mark Group, is going to be making the Navy Yard one of its homes, and plans to hire over 300 new workers.

2) Philadelphia Eagles Stadium to be Powered with Renewable Energy. Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, is soon to be the first major sports stadium in the world that will be 100 percent run on on-site renewable energy, including a combination of on-site wind, solar, and dual-fuel generated electricity. Renewable energy conservation company SolarBlue is responsible for installing 80 20-foot-spiral-shaped wind turbines on the top rim of the stadium, as well as 2,500 solar panels along the façade. A 7.6 megawatt on-site dual-fuel cogeneration plant will also be there. More than $30 million will be invested into this project over the next year, which should be complete by September of 2011. It is estimated that these changes will save the Eagles approximately $60 million in energy costs. According to Jeffrey Lurie, team owner and chief executive officer, “This commitment builds upon our comprehensive environmental sustainability program, which includes energy and water conservation, waste reduction, recycling, composting, toxic chemical avoidance and reforestation. It underscores our strong belief that environmentally sensitive policies are consistent with sound business practices.”

3) Increase in Solar Energy Technology. A new solar energy plant is going up by the Navy Yard. It is a project between $8 and $12 million and would provide enough power to 200 homes annually. It was developed from German company Epuron, which has their United States headquarters in Philadelphia. Because of the increase in solar technology, Philadelphia was named a “Solar American City” and was provided with a $200,000 award to assist in the study of how to triple solar energy capacity in plants by 2011.

4) Philadelphia Gas Works Renewable Energy Initiatives. Philadelphia Gas Works, as part of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, has the objective to elevate the total use of renewable energy up to 20 percent of the total energy expenditures of the city. It focuses on the use of solar power mainly. Some of the initiatives include tutorials on the basics of solar power, an industry guidebook on solar power unit installation, inspector training, and three city-wide solar installations at the Navy Yard, Southeast Wastewater Pollution Control Plant, and the Baxter Water Treatment Facility.

5) Green Energy Capital Partner’s Solar Energy Plant. Green Energy Capital Partners, in 2008, created the plans to build the second largest solar energy plant near Green Acres Industrial Park. This project costs around $60million and provides 100 megawatts of energy with 40,000 solar panels. The government has been providing all the financial as well as material support for the project, as it gets several million dollars in incentives to create the facility.

6) Weatherizing Row Houses and Creating Jobs. Philadelphia is improving energy efficiency and lowering unemployment rates at the same time with numerous green projects. One project is educating individuals on weatherization of their homes. The program, run by the Energy Coordinating Agency, wants to provide weatherization for approximately 400,000 low-income row houses. The agency, along with Philadelphia Gas Works is footing the bills which could save individuals 30 to 40 percent on heating bills. Numerous individuals are being trained on weatherization techniques, such as insulation installation, caulking, and sealing.

7) Host of the World Green Energy Symposium. Every year, Philadelphia houses the World Green Energy Symposium. It is a three day event that “demonstrates the power of New Energy by providing a platform for connections, education, information exchange, contracting, and business networking opportunities in the industry.” It is a time where organizations, businesses, government agencies, academia, students, and others from around the globe can connect and focus on clean, green, and renewable energy technologies.

8 ) Philadelphia Recycling Rewards. To promote recycling, the Philadelphia Recycling Rewards Program enables individuals to earn points based on how much an individual recycles. These points can be redeemed for gift cards and certificates, discounts, and so much more. The program is powered by RecycleBank, an organization that works to motivate individuals to engage in various green behaviors by providing point incentives that can be used on groceries, merchandise, and discounts. All individuals need to do is stick a sticker on their recycle bin and it gets scanned, giving individuals rewards!

9) Philadelphia Solar Energy Association. The mission of the Philadelphia Solar Energy Association is simple – “to promote the rapid adoption of solar energy technologies in the Delaware Valley through distinguished guest lecturers, hands on demonstrations, participation in regional and national conferences, and other methods and activities.” They also provide information on the solar incentive programs throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

10) The Provision of Energy Rebates and Tax Credits. To assist businesses and homeowners with energy efficiency, Philadelphia has created a number of energy rebates and tax credits. For example there is the Keystone HELP Energy Efficiency Loan Program, which supports installation of high efficiency air conditioning, heating, insulation, doors, windows, and whole-house improvements by providing a maximum of $35,000 to homeowners whose yearly household income does not exceed $150,000. The Pennsylvania Sunshine Solar Rebate Program offers $2.25.W rebates for solar panels based on the system capacity, and a maximum of $20,000 for space heating or solar thermal water systems. Other rebates include the Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program, Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, and the USDA High Energy Cost Grant Program.

Shawn Lesser is the president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co- founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and can be reached at shawn.lesser@sworldcap.com

China does business a little differently than the U.S. but we track results in the same way:  the value of deals and the number of jobs created.

Hu Jintao’s State Visit from January 18-21 may have been a dog-and-pony show on a big stage but it did register some big results at the box-office.

Having worked in the trenches of the U.S.-Japan trade war in the early 1990s, I know full well that the numbers trotted out in press statements for Presidential events need to be taken with a grain of salt.  Notwithstanding, the underlying facts they describe have a reality.  Yes, there was some degree of smoke and mirrors involved in the numbers announced with the original U.S.-Japan Auto Trade Agreement in 1992.  Nonetheless,  those numbers pointed to real changes which seem commonplace today — there’s no longer a trade war with Japan, U.S. consumers have better cars, Toyota sponsors the Super Bowl, and Japan’s economy proved far less able to overtake the U.S. than many had supposed.

All of this suggests that we shouldn’t sneeze at US $50 billion in trade deals announced during the Hu Jintao State Visit.  Also, that grain of salt may perhaps be better applied to the growing perception that China owns the future.

AEP, AES, Aloca, Duke, Ener1, GE and UPC racked up more than $12.5 billion in trade, investment and project deals over the past four days.  This bodes well for the future of U.S.-China clean energy cooperation.  The guts of these seven deals show that the U.S. provides innovation and China provides a huge market.  That basically represents a fair deal for both sides.

Click here or directly on the slide thumbnail below to access the slide-master with links to full details of each of these seven deals:

We’re pleased to share here an invited submission by James Wheatcroft,  picking up and advancing the conversation from the previous post about rising levels of Chinese clean energy investment in various regions of the U.S. (as well as from the Jan 3rd  BusinessWeek article cited in that post).  Here’s the expert sounding which James takes on the rising level of Chinese investment. My conclusion? We’re in the trough of a wave.

China’s Suntech in Arizona — Reflections on Real-world Globalization by James Wheatcroft

“The move by Suntech to invest in a US manufacturing facility is positive news for Phoenix and a triumph for Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Barry like thousands of regional business development organisations in the West are trying to figure out how to attract Chinese money into their area, and are prepared to offer grants and incentives to do so.

So: why have the Chinese done this?

Cynics would say that this is a move by the Chinese to circumvent US “Buy American” trade clauses. They would also say that this facility is tiny compared to the vast plants that Suntech and other Chinese PV manufacturers have in China. I say this is an emerging trend that will continue; in fact I know of another very large Chinese State Owned energy company that is seriously considering a European plant.

To me this is more about nationalism, carbon footprint and true globalisation.

Nationalism

There is a real national fervour in China these days. People and businesses are more confident and look to demonstrate this confidence abroad. China has long had a “go abroad” policy in many industries, and this reflects the fact that many State Owned Enterprises are awash with capital and are seeking to balance their portfolio of investments-  by investing outside China.

The logic is very obvious. If “Buy American” becomes a serious purchasing standard, the bar is raised in terms of price, allowing US wage levels to be built into the cost base. Therefore a small facility in the US becomes well worth the risk for Suntech.

Carbon Footprint

There is much talk in Europe about a possible tariff system based on carbon footprint. Certainly in the UK market, where I operate, regional councils and housing associations (who are all looking at installing panels), are beginning to include carbon footprint as a purchasing criterion. It is not a legal requirement but it is increasingly  being seen as a form of ‘best practice.’ In the long term, carbon footprint taxes on a Pan-European basis are possible. From a Chinese perspective therefore there  is now a good argument  that if you wish to win public sector business in the EU, you need to have a base in the EU..

Globalisation

Globalisation is no longer, as we saw in the late 20th – early 21st centuries, only about US and European companies either tapping global markets or sourcing from them. Chinese and Indian companies are already leading this investment trend. US PV makers that are feeling the pinch from Asia are building PV plants in China. This turnaround – where Chinese companies are feeling the pinch  from ‘Buy American’ clauses and building plant in the US,- is merely the next step in true globalisation, and if you ask Barry Broome or the 75 people working at Suntech Phoenix- they would tell you that they’re pretty happy about it.

James Maclean Wheatcroft, based in the UK is a consultant in the Chinese green energy, media and communications markets. His team of consultants on the ground in China has delivered more than $80 million per year in energy joint ventures. James is currently working with both Chinese and European companies and governments to benefit from the current boom in Chinese energy

The headline to watch during China President Hu Jintao’s  State Visit to the US later this month? His itinerary.  Rather than the standard shuffle between DC and NYC, this itinerary  includes a stop in the ‘real America’ outside of  the ‘bubbles’ of Washington DC and New York City.  For the purposes of this trip, ‘real America’ is Chicago.

This represents, of course, a polite and deft gesture of respect to the hometown of Hu’s host at the State Dinner in Washington.  But the itinerary signifies far more:  a shift in China’s outward focus from Wall Street to Main Street.

In the post-GFC landscape,  this is a tectonic tremor worth heeding.  Expect a visit to a Main Street company with Chinese ownership and lots of U.S. employees in an embattled industry sector. Expect the U.S.-China storyline in 2011 to shift in degree from currency rates and the U.S. bond market toward rates of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) and in-bound support of the U.S. job market.

For USA regions angling for Chinese FDI to support their local jobs & their regional economic development, the key to success will be aligning regional assets with US-China national level priorities  — whether in clean energy or in other strategic sectors.  Several key vectors of national/regional alignment were created this fall when the U.S. Department of Energy and other Federal agencies awarded:

  • Detroit and the University of Michigan with a U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) for Clean Energy Vehicles;
  • The University of West Virginia lead role in a consortium for a U.S.-China CERC for Clean Coal;
  • The Lawrence Berkeley Lab with a U.S.-China CERC for Building Efficiency;
  • Greater Philadelphia and Penn State University with a national Energy Innovation Hub for Building Efficiency —  the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC) — at the Navy Yard.

The first half of the Obama Administration’s engagement with China to tackle the challenge of 21st energy took place in Washington and New York.  The next chapter will take place in Detroit, the Bay Area, Philadelphia and other regional markets around the country.  As China reinvents itself, it will partner with regions that step forward to reintroduce themselves on the global dance-floor.

It will be an awkward dance at times.  But not a dance that will pay to sit out.  The dance ticket is to tomorrow’s world.

BusinessWeek took an excellent snapshot of this moment’s step in the global pas-de-deux with its January 3, 2011 piece on “Chinese Plants Grow on U.S. Turf.”

There’s a curious disconnect in discussions about China’s ability to innovate. Yes, there’s no question that China lacks the chemistry to produce tomorrow’s Google — rigid educational system, lack of intellectual property rights protection, constricted flow of ideas, top-down control of ‘right thinking,’ etc. But what tends to get overlooked in this discussion is China’s headlong embrace of the future, the attitudinal openness to change. It perhaps took the searing experience of the Cultural Revolution to burn into the consciousness of present-day China where never to return and thereby to point the way to where to head — a modern and global future. We should be able to respect China’s focus on the future and, in doing so, avoid getting too comfortable in our present.

This article by James Allworth at at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School puts this issue into clear perspective.

How the U.S. Could Avoid Being Disrupted by China by James Allworth, Harvard Business Review, 1:12 PM Tuesday December 21, 2010,

Last week, President Obama met with the CEOs of 20 of the largest corporations in the U.S. It was a widely praised meeting. But given what the President is hoping to achieve — creating sustained economic growth, which in turn leads to jobs — listening to much of what these guys have to say is the wrong approach. And asking them to start hiring misses the point. Obama is talking to the wrong people.
The U.S.’s position as a global economic leader has been based on one thing more than anything else: its ability to innovate. From Detroit to Silicon Valley, America has always been at the center of the “next big thing”. Each of the industries that have sprung up around these innovations has become an engine for America’s economic growth. Amazingly, each time as one has begun to slow down, the next one has picked up.
But this cycle is being jeopardized… [and in danger of] falling into the trap that leads to disruption — the same one that snares executives in many successful companies. Just as talented corporate leaders gradually shift their focus further and further upmarket in service of their best customers, the U.S.’s political leadership is increasingly doing that, too, by catering to the largest American companies… These are companies at their zenith. They have been through periods of exponential growth, but now they’re mature. America’s economic future is not dependent on the companies that are peaking now; the future is going to depend on the companies and industries that will peak in ten or 20 years time from now, the companies that are about to go through a period of break-out growth.
Unlike the startups that represent America’s future, the big players have an inherent bias toward protecting the status quo. They play a defensive game and face a different set of issues to their smaller brethren; fixing these issues is their priority when talking to politicians. The problem with this is that America’s economic competitiveness has always been built upon its ability to disrupt what it already has with something better. That’s a game played by smaller — not larger — companies.
Tilting the power balance in favor of large companies changes America’s winning formula. Here are just a few examples of where the big players and their undue influence in the political process have hurt America’s competitiveness, particularly relative to the U.S.’s emerging economic competitor, China:

• Big oil and big coal have stymied the growth of green energy within the U.S. Their lobbying and advertising have made it practically impossible to form political consensus. Putting aside the debate about the science, if the rest of the world believes global warming is real and is committed to stopping it, they’re going to want to get clean energy from somewhere. Right now, that’s not going to be the U.S. — it’s going to be China. What should be even more concerning to the U.S. is that while it remains too early to call, the green revolution looks like it’s going to be “the next big thing”, and the U.S. is set to miss out.

• The builders of every technical revolution — engineers — are being turned out at incredible rate in China. Compare the Chinese government’s attitude to that of the U.S. government. American politicians (at the behest of big content businesses) have tied federal funding of universities to anti-piracy efforts on campus. Do you think it makes sense to tie a country’s ability to innovate to protecting a business model that’s in the process of being disrupted?

• Intellectual property protections — frequently cited by big companies as being critical to innovation — are lacking in China. Ironically, this lack of IP is making China a more innovation-rich environment. The reason? The only protection you get in China is being able to innovate at such a rate that nobody else can catch you. Compare this to the U.S., where you create your IP and then rely on the legal system to keep your competitors at bay. This approach doesn’t work if your competitor doesn’t respect your IP laws. Further compounding the issue for America is that its current system strongly favors the big players. If a startup becomes a threat to a large company, then a common tactic is to rely on a long, drawn-out IP infringement lawsuit. Most startups don’t have the resources to fight back.

Over the past 20 years, America has gotten away with this shift in attitude, simply because it has had no competition. China changes that. The Chinese are determined to become a global hub for innovation, so America will have to compete to be the best environment in which to create the “next big thing” If the U.S. doesn’t want to lose its position and threaten its future prosperity, it’s going to need go back to its roots. The starting point is getting our political leaders to stop talking to the CEOs of large corporations and talk to entrepreneurs instead.

James Allworth is a Fellow at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School.
Find the complete article at http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/12/how_the_us_could_avoid_being_d.html

Today’s industry press on the renewable energy industry in China carries an instructive piece of analysis on dynamics in the photovoltaic solar market — i.e., the ‘chips’ on solar panels that do the photovoltaic conversion from sunlight to transmission-ready electricity.

Currently, this is a boom industry in China. One city in Shandong province, Dezhou, is alone home to more than 100 PV manufacturers. When the critical supply input for this industry — polysilicon — tightened in global markets, the full statecraft apparatus of the PRC central government got into gear to assure supply for this sector, a story well described by Jason Dean, Andrew Brown and Shai Oster in a frontpage Wall Street Journal article on November 16, 2010. Since supply is being ramped up by these ‘investor euphoria’ factors and because demand is constrained by State Grid’s ability to integrate new PV-generated power into the national grid, prices are dropping. As reported by RenewableEnergyWorld.com in September 2010, “the late-August round of bids for utility-scale solar power projects in China yielded a new milestone in the economics of solar power in China: a sub-Yuan/kWh price for solar power. To achieve this impressive number, the Chinese government has used the state-owned sector (and particularly enterprises under the direct control of the central government) to help subsidize the price of solar power, to the point where the economics appear to be unsustainable.”

So, if the factors above give the background to the current moment, the analysis below shows where this situation is likely to lead in 2011 in the Chinese domestic market.

One final observation — since the Chinese PV solar panel is strongly export-oriented, the oversupply situation in China will lead to falling prices in international markets. Falling prices of imported Chinese panels will undercut the ability of U.S.-manufacturers to compete at cost and this will in turn add to the pressures on the bilateral U..S.-China bilateral relationship. The U.S. Steelworkers presented an omnibus complaint against Chinese unfair trade practices in renewable energy in September but USTR and the Obama administration chose in December to take up officially only the wind power component of that complaint.

The pressures building up in the global market for PV solar mean that the Obama administration may be under pressure in 2011 to broaden their trade action in renewables to include PV solar products.

ANALYSIS – BOOM IN CHINA’S PV INDUSTRY HARD TO CONTINUE IN 2011 – Asia Pulse (December 30, 2010)

China’s domestic photovoltaics firms have achieved remarkable performances in 2010 boosted by surging demand in domestic and overseas markets. But the boom is hard to continue in 2011 upon oversupply in domestic market and no further growth in international demand. According to statistics from Wind Info, 58 solar companies listed on China’s A-share market achieved combined net profits of 12.1 billion yuan (US$1.82 billion) in the first three quarters of 2010, up 46 per cent year on year from 8.29 billion yuan. However, high expectations on the outlook for the PV industry have attracted a good number of companies to take up the production of PV products, which is very likely to result in oversupply in 2011. Besides, international PV demand is unlikely to see further growth in 2011, therefore the boom in China’s PV industry in 2010 is unlikely to carry on into 2011.

Surging demand boosts performance of PV firms in 2010.

Since the beginning of 2010, international demand for PV products has continued to surge, growing threefold in Germany. Emerging PV markets such as Italy, the Czech Republic, and the US also stepped up construction of PV power plants. This has directly driven the demand for PV products, and led to a relatively long duration of short supply of PV products, including silicon wafers and solar cell modules, which greatly benefit domestic PV giants. Leading PV producers like Suntech, LDK Solar, and Yingli Green Energy all registered better-than-expected performances in the first three quarters of 2010. Among the 58 domestically-listed PV companies, 20 reported their net profits doubled in the first three quarters, and their sales margins increased by 5 percentage points year on year. Besides this, 23 companies have forecast increasing net profits for the whole year of 2010, and 16 of them expected over 50 per cent growth in net profits. Not only have PV producers turned in sound performances, but also have domestic PV equipment manufacturers benefited from the surging demand. Zhejiang Jinggong Science and Technology (002006.SZ), a manufacturer of polycrystalline silicon ingot production furnaces, expect net profits of 60 to 65 million yuan for 2010, up 150 to 180 per cent year on year.

Oversupply of PV products expected in 2011

China is very likely to face overcapacity and oversupply of PV products on diminishing international demand and continuous enthusiasm of domestic PV producers for capacity expansion. Zhou Yanwu, chief analyst with Research In China, said that more than 90 per cent of China’s domestic PV companies are heavily reliant on exports, and the export destinations are mainly concentrated in Europe. However, European countries, the world’s largest PV solar market, recently announced they are to cut back subsidies to PV projects. Germany has trimmed total subsidies to PV projects by 3 per cent since October. Spain is planning to cut the on-grid price of solar power-generated electricity generated by 45 per cent. The Czech Republic is also mulling over reducing its investment in a 700MW solar power plant. Solarbuzz, the PV market research specialist, believes that the policy changes will reduce demand for China’s domestic PV products, and this will take effect from the beginning of 2011. There is a consensus that China’s PV industry is not likely to maintain its fast growth in 2011. An insider with Suntech predicted that in certain periods of 2011 international PV demand may be lower than in 2010. However, despite of unfavorable changes in the solar power policies of European countries, China’s domestic PV companies are actively expanding their production capacity.

— Risen Energy (300118.SZ) on Wednesday announced that it plans to invest 800 million yuan to build a 300MW crystalline silicon production line, which will double its current production capacity.

— Shanghai Aerospace Automobile Electromechanical (SSE:600151) and Hengdian Group DMEGE Magnetics (SSZ:002056) recently announced they are to jointly invest more than 1 billion yuan to expand solar-cell production capacity.

— Leading PV producers like Suntech, Yingli, JA Solar, and LDK in China have already released their expansion plans for 2011, which all involve a 10-odd per cent increase in production capacity.

According to China’s development plan for the PV industry, China is aiming to increase PV installed capacity to 20GW by 2020. But judging by the current rate of expansion, it is likely to top 50GW by then. Meanwhile, the entire PV industry, including PV cells and PV modules, may face periodical oversupply in 2011 due to concentrated operation of newly added production capacity. According to statistics, there will be 11 solar cell producers with production capacities exceeding 1GW in 2011. A PV producer noted that China’s solar cell production capacity is expected to reach 35GW in 2011, while total international demand would not surpass 20GW. If all domestic production capacity is fully operated, there will be 50 per cent oversupply of solar cell products in 2011. In the face of a gloomy outlook for international PV demand, domestic PV companies may encounter challenges in getting a return on investment in the short term. Oversupply will force the prices of PV products to drop further in 2011.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,170 other followers


For more information about
Assessing China /The TEA Collaborative blog, please visit us at www.teacollab.org

Terry Cooke on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: