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The motto of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is ‘knowledge in the public service.’  This publication of mine from September 2012 is made available to the public free of charge here by downloadable PDF.

Book Cover

INTRODUCTION

At the time of my initial appointment to the Wilson Center, it struck me that something was missing from the general discussion in the United States concerning China’s embrace of clean energy and its implications for the United States. Much of what had been written embraced one of two polar positions. It seemed that the U.S.-China relationship in clean energy was either the best avenue for our cooperation or the measuring stick for our final competition. To a casual but concerned reader, the message was confusing. Newspaper “word-bites,” rather than informing discussion, lent anxiety to the existing confusion. The Woodrow Wilson Center provided me time and resources to examine the facts about clean technology (“cleantech”) and China. This was timely. Government agencies, think tanks and trade associations hoping to influence the policy debate began in February 2009 to release a spate of lengthy and in-depth policy reports, many of them technical in nature. We will learn in Chapter One how and why that gusher of information—which has thrown up literally shelf-feet of reports over the past year and a half— suddenly arose. However, for the purposes of this Introduction, it is simply worth noting that these policy tomes, for all that they did serve to provide data-based context to what had previously been “context-free” highly combustible reporting, did not offer much help to an interested non-specialist in making better sense of the main issues. At this “informed” end of the information spectrum, there was now almost too much information spread across too many specialized viewpoints. For a busy entrepreneur, investment manager, business professional, state or local government official, regional economic development analyst, scientific researcher, or engaged student—in fact, for any concerned “global citizen” wanting to understand the issues in a straightforward and streamlined way— it was famine or feast. A super-abundance of highly-specialized information provides not much more help in gaining an efficient grasp of the core issues than scattershot newspaper and media reporting had offered. Sustaining U.S.-China Clean Energy Cooperation 3 This book aims squarely at the “middle ground” of curiosity and interest in this broad topic. At the outset, I would like to be clear about three “operating assumptions” I have built in: Timeframe The three main chapters are concerned with the three-year period from mid-2008 to mid-2011. Except for one digression involving Five Year Plans which covers a 30-year period, this limitation on perspective actually helps bring the main subject matter into better focus. The bulk of the U.S. political effort to engage with China in the clean energy arena took shape during the 2008 Presidential Campaign and was further framed through policy initiatives of the Obama administration. For a new industrial ecosystem like “cleantech” or clean energy, what is relevant is defined by what has most recently happened. It is only in the Conclusion that the time-frame is pulled back to show that some of the dynamics described in preceding chapters are, in fact, related to deeper and more long-standing trends in the overall U.S.-China relationship. Structure As author, I have insisted on an organizational principle for presenting information which puts me at odds with the conventional approach of “Beltway” experts. In Washington, the tendency is to run all relevant information through what I will call the “policy blender” and to present the resulting product as a mix of policy recommendation, policy analysis, and policy refutation. I take a different approach. I believe that the policy process is best served when the three main aspects of business-relevant policy are broken down and viewed separately in their own right. These are: (a) the politics underlying the policy process; (b) the technology innovations which policy initiatives aim to support; and (c) the investment ultimately required to take any technology innovation to scale in the marketplace, thereby driving policy on a long-term and sustainable basis. Rather than jumble these perspectives, I treat them in Merritt t. Cooke 4 separate chapters and try to adopt the relevant “mind-set” of each in presenting material in the respective chapter. This may be nothing more than a reflection of my former training as a cultural anthropologist, but I believe it is useful—within the complex arena of China, the United States, and energy—in revealing underlying dynamics. For this reason, in the U.S. section of the opening chapter on Politics, I will rely heavily on the words of key political actors. Ours is a system where the president needs to persuade the electorate and what is said matters. In the section on Chinese Politics, the approach is different, relying instead on “structural analysis” of the ruling party and its interests. In each case, the attempt is to adopt a perspective particularly suited to its subject matter. Purpose The Woodrow Wilson Center’s motto is “knowledge in the public service.” Woodrow Wilson epitomized the ideal of the “practitioner scholar”—the part-time scholar who devotes some of his or her career to bringing scholarly research into the practical, socially-relevant domains of government or business or non-profit work. This is the spirit with which I have written this book. I am neither a career academic nor a professional policymaker. I have tried to make this book clear and concise, although it involves a complex, and fast-changing topic. Especially for technically inclined readers, I want to acknowledge that no sector domain in the U.S.-China clean energy field can be adequately reduced to a couple of pages. I believe this topic is an important one. If the United States and China find a way to realistically base and sustain their cooperation in clean energy, they will be addressing directly 40 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions. And if together they manage to create a replicable model of cooperation, they can indirectly help the world address the remaining 60 percent. At its core, this topic touches everyone—those who care deeply about America’s place in the world, those who are moved by China’s epochal reemergence, those who are environmentally-engaged, and those who are responsible global citizens. Students are a particularly important audience because the tectonic issue described in this book will ultimately be the felt experience of their generation. In short, I hope that this book may be found to present important issues in a balanced way and to offer something useful and readily comprehensible to anyone with enough interest to pick it up.

View the Wilson Center’s Book Launch Event here

The following post comes courtesy of Sinosphere, the China blog for The New York Times.  Like a flower poking out of the cracked pavement of a concrete jungle, this is another hopeful sign that ‘The Greening of Asia” is starting to blossom.

Q & A with Author Mark Clifford on “The Greening of Asia”

By Ian Johnson from Sinosphere, May 5, 2015 3:21am

Mark Clifford & Greening of Asia post (5-5-15), photo 1

A technician at Yingli Solar checks a solar panel on a production line at the company’s headquarters in Baoding, Hebei Province. Credit Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

After 20 years in Asia as a journalist, Mark Clifford took over as executive director of the Hong Kong-based Asia Business Council in 2007. His new book, “The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency,” explores how Asian companies are making strides in providing environmental solutions. China is a special focus because of the country’s huge emissions of carbon, but also because of its potential for innovation.

Mark Clifford & Greening of Asia post (5-5-15), photo 2

Mark Clifford.Credit Courtesy of Mark Clifford

In an interview, Mr. Clifford discussed the need to link businesses, governments and nongovernmental organizations to fight climate change:

Q.:   How did you get interested in this topic?

A:     I joined the Council in 2007 and inherited an almost-finished study on green buildings. That was pretty exotic in Asia back then, and we published a book on it. It got me thinking about the topic.

Q:    Your angle is a bit more hopeful than some. Tell us how that came to be.

A:     Originally, I thought I’d do a book along the lines of “The East Is Black.” And we do have an emergency here. In China, 1.2 million a year are dying prematurely. People need to know how bad it is, but then I got to thinking that this was pretty obvious. Instead, I thought that there are these much more positive responses underway, and people should know about them. The business community, which takes challenges and solves problems, was involved. So it is unabashedly a glass-half-full book, but that’s because it’s important to know there’s a way out. We can despair, we can do nothing, or we can work to solve one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Mark Clifford & Greening of Asia post (5-5-15), photo 3

Q;   Do you see business being the main player in solving the issue?

A:    No, it’s part of the solution. There has to be a three-legged stool of government, civil society and business, and each has to bring its strengths to the table.  Only governments have the power to set rules — the laws and regulations, of course, but also the prices in the forms of taxes and subsidies as well as facilitating infrastructure developments. Media and NGOs make sure that business and government are doing what they promise.

Q:    What was most surprising is how many companies are doing this in one form or another.

A:     Yes, in the book I profile more than a dozen companies at length but also have an appendix of more than 50 companies that are involved with a variety of environmental initiatives. It was surprising to me what’s going on at the corporate level, but they’re doing things for good business reasons. Some are for the P.R. effect, but most look at it as necessary for survival.

Q:    You focused one chapter on Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings, the electric power company.

A:    Their work really sparked this project. In 2007, the then-chief executive, Andrew Brandler, announced that by mid-century, they would cut the carbon intensity of their electricity production by 75 percent. This pledge by one of Asia’s biggest private utilities — mostly coal-fired power plants — to effectively decarbonize by mid-century is unparalleled globally. I think this stems from the Kadoorie family, which owns a major stake in CLP. Michael Kadoorie challenges his top management to look at 50-year horizons. They do this for good reasons. They’re traditionally a coal-burning utility, but they think that this isn’t a good business model in 50 years.

Other companies think that water is underpriced, and in the future, it will be more realistically priced. Carbon also is underpriced, and other companies want to be ready for when it’s changed.  But not all companies have long-term visions.To reach them, you need the other two legs of the stool. You need good, strong government policy, and you need NGOs to hold people accountable.

Q:    What countries have had good policies?

A:    Singapore has done an exemplary job. They decided very early on that water is of existential threat to the nation. So they have taken very firm policies, and it gives companies a form of certainty about costs.Not every country has the capacity that Singapore’s administration has, and it’s a small place with a forward-thinking government. It’s much harder in big countries like China and India, which are more fragmented.

Q:    You have a lot on China.

A:    The good news is we have good policies coming down from the top levels of the Chinese government. Where China continues to struggle is the implementation at the ground level. There’s not always enforcement, and there’s no civil society to act as a check. The time when China decides that the environment and energy issues are as much of a threat as the color revolutions were, or the Hong Kong protests were last year, that’s when we’ll know we have serious progress. We’ve seen with Chai Jing [whose popular documentary film on the environment, “Under the Dome,” was banned] that civil society is muted.

Q:    We read a lot about air pollution, but you also think that water is crucial.

A:     Increasingly, water is a hard-stop issue. Air pollution is horrible, but most people affected by it are still living. But no one can live without water. I don’t know what people will do when the water stops. In China, projects like the South-North Water Diversion Project just delay the day of reckoning. What concerns me is that even most otherwise far-sighted governments are not facing up to the challenges.  For example, what do you do if you’re a municipal official, and you have an industry, say semi-conductors, which uses a lot of water? What do you do when you have to make a choice: water for the factory or the town? These are the kinds of choices that aren’t going to happen today or tomorrow, but governments will face this.

Q:    And yet there are signs of hope in China.

A:    China is about to overtake Germany as having the largest amount of installed solar power capability. It also has large wind turbine facilities. All of this is important because China burns half the world’s coal and accounts for 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. So to fix China, we need to cut coal use. Coal is supposed to peak in 2030, but it could happen a lot faster. So these are huge challenges, but China is potentially further ahead than many people realize.

The summer’s over and the new work-year has begun. No better way to kick it off than with a reprise of our summer’s big news — China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia were recognized at the annual high-level U.S.-China talks in Beijing this summer with one of six new U.S.-China EcoPartnerships.  Our partner is the Tianjin Economic-technological Development Area or TEDA.  Our PHL-TEDA EcoPartnership focuses on funded projects in Tianjin for smartgrid online monitoring systems (OMS), wetlands urban water management (WUWM), and green building energy efficiency (GBEE).

EcoPartnership w Kerry, Baucus & PodestaBack row: Philadelphia Delegates Terry Cooke, CPGP (4th from left) and Gary Biehn, White & Williams (2nd from left)

Front row (from right to left) China’s State Councilor Jiechi Yang , Sec of State Kerry, Amb. Baucus & Counselor to the President, John Podesta

 

In other posts to follow, I’ll share some more background on what the five-year old U.S.-China EcoPartnership program is (and why it matters), give thumbnails on the other five EcoPartnership awardees in 2014, and provide a listing of the twenty-four active EcoPartners since the inauguration of the program in 2014.

 

In the meanwhile, here are links publicizing our new three-year PHL-TEDA EcoPartnership:

U.S. State Department Press Release

Secretary Kerry remarks at July 10th EcoPartnership signing ceremony

U.S. Government website for the U.S.-China EcoPartnership program

Official photo from U.S. Department of State

City of Philadelphia Press Release (on City’s blog)

City of Philadelphia Press Release (on City Facebook page)

 

Happy Year of the Snake!

I have some major catching up to do so let me begin here with a link to my book which the Wilson Center launched on September 24, 2012.  (Note: if you want to download the PDF of the book, just right-click and use the Save As option).

Book Cover

More 2012/3 updates to follow in rapid sequence.

Thanks for hanging in there,

Premise

Participation in China’s fast-growing nuclear market offers promise and peril for global market-leaders.  A model coupling U.S. innovation with Chinese scale and speed of deployment offers the best path forward.

Discussion

The development of China’s nuclear market has been driven by a governmental elite, many of whom were trained as engineers. Their strategic thinking appears to be motivated in part by the challenges of climate change – to adopt lower carbon sources of electricity generation. As the vice president of the China Nuclear Energy Association has pointed out, nuclear power – rather than solar, wind or biomass – is “the only energy source that can be used on a mass scale” to achieve clean, low-carbon energy.

Just as significantly, though, China’s rapid expansion of nuclear power appears motivated by a desire to upgrade the Chinese nuclear industry by enticing foreign suppliers who want to participate in China’s market growth to share their technology with Chinese partners. The profit potential is vast in China, but other big emerging economies, such as India and Brazil, will be exploring nuclear installations in coming decades. To wrest some of that business away from established incumbents –such as France’s Areva and Japan’s Westinghouse – China is leveraging its low-cost labor and deep experience with major infrastructure projects. A Western-designed reactor can be built in China for 40% less cost and 36% faster than that same installation in Europe.

For China to become globally competitive its two major nuclear power companies — China National Nuclear Corporation and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group — will need to improve in the knowledge-intensive end of the business. Of the 13 nuclear power plants currently operating in China, only three — all at the Qinshan site — rely on an indigenously developed design. Likewise, China has only limited experience selling its reactors in export markets; Pakistan is the only known foreign buyer to date. Finally, to compete globally, China will need to manufacture specialized components, for which it is currently dependent on foreign suppliers.

As for U.S.-China strategic cooperation in the nuclear field, there have been important undertakings but, to date the governments have not attempted anything on a broad strategic basis. There are interesting opportunities on the horizon. Former U.S. Ambassador to China, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., has reported discussing with Bill Gates a new kind of reactor “that runs for decades on a single fuel load, making and destroying plutonium as it runs,” thereby reducing the hazards of reprocessing and the dangers of proliferation. According to Huntsman, strategic cooperation between the U.S. and China to develop this American-pioneered technology could bring shared benefits. The technology could, for example, be certified and brought to commercial scale faster in China. A partnership effort could be envisioned where a joint American-Chinese company leads the construction, with co-development and commercialization rights apportioned between the partners. The end-result could be a cleaner and (marginally) safer form of energy brought to consumers quickly and at scale.

(This piece has been reprinted from G+ Insights, a publication series of the Gerson Lehrman Group at www.gplus.com.  The G+ piece, in turn, has been adapted from Sustaining U.S.-China Cooperation in Clean Energy,  a book publication authored by Terry Cooke forthcoming from the Kissinger Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Institute in November 2011).

I was asked during the UNEP Symposium in Philadelphia yesterday how I thought shale gas and ‘tight gas’ projects — which are at an early stage of operation in various parts of the world such as the United States, China  and Argentina — may affect the development of existing renewable energy sources, such as geothermal, biomass, wind, solar, tidal.

There are different dynamics in advanced economies versus emerging economies as each responds to the shale gas opportunity.

In the advanced economies, the values framework for evaluating shale gas tends to emphasize the environment at the expense of economics.  This is the so-called “3 C’s” orientation of carbon and climate change.  Under this framework, shale and tight gas are only somewhat less carbon-intensive in comparison with traditional fossil fuel sources and their extraction entails media-ampliflied but not yet proven environmental risks associated with ‘fracking’ et cetera.

In the developing world, the tendency is instead to focus on economic and energy security benefits — the “3 E’s” of economics and energy exploitation.  From this viewpoint, the positives of shale gas — a relatively cheap and abundant and lower carbon energy source for a country like China — far outweigh negatives of as yet unproven environmental risk.  In any case, under the Chinese framework of development, industrial growth and wealth creation come first, and clean-up from the environmental impacts of fast growth come later.

The hard truth is that these the viewpoints in North America and East Asia should not be so divergent.  In a world of finite resources and global pollution, we can ill afford to be seeing different problems and talking past one another.  The common denominator and linchpin is long-term energy efficiency .  Efficient energy utilization is environmental stewardship at the same time that it is good business and the basis for good economic policy.  Efficient and diversified energy utilization promotes jobs, investment and a sustainable environment.  Neither the advanced world nor the developing world should be sequencing energy and environmental policy or prioritizing between them.  Both the U.S. and China could be pursuing a common approach, based on energy efficiency and designed to yield both economic and environmental benefits simultaneously.

By splitting the difference between the “3 C’s” and the ‘3 E’s” both countries could reframe the challenge as the “3  D’s” of diversified energy sources, dollar-accountability, and developmental sustainability. And by re-framing objectives on a realistic and common basis, strategic efforts such as the U.S.-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative may be able to get better global traction.

In the real world, it’s not shale gas versus renewables.  It’s shale gas and renewables balanced together for economic and environmental sustainability.

Thanks to BBC, ‎2.5 million people have already enjoyed this but it DOES pack 200 years of history into 4 minutes. It also drives home the key dynamic for us all to internalize about the natural impact which China (and India) are bringing to the world today… and why ultimately it’s a very good thing. An exhilarating 4 minute ride through 2 centuries of global history and a peek around the corner to tomorrow’s world…

More about this programme:http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wgq0l Hans Rosling’s famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport’s commentator’s style to reveal the story of the world’s past, present and future development. Now he explores stats in a way he has never done

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.

I include some excerpts here from an interview which Energy Secretary Steven Chu just gave with Platts Energy Week television (http://www.plattsenergyweektv.com/) an independent all-energy news and talk show with ownership links to McGraw Hill.

The U.S. engine for clean energy innovation and economic growth is a four-cylinder engine but only three cylinders are firing now. Technology innovation, investment and state-level policy are all producing horsepower but federal level policy to create a long-term framework in support of technology innovation, long-term investment, and state support is seized up.

These extracts from Sec. Chu represent to my mind the best way forward and perhaps, in a time of polarized partisanship, the only way forward:


The White House, its Democratic allies and Republicans need to “look for the things that the vast majority of Americans will say, ‘This is good for me, this is good for America, this is good for my state,’ and move forward on those issues,” Chu told program host Bill Loveless. The interview, available at this link, airs in Houston tonight and was aired Sunday in Washington, D.C.

The House passed a comprehensive energy and climate-change bill last year that would have put a price on carbon emissions, but the measure died in the Senate. Nevertheless, Chu said there were other options for moving the U.S. towards a clean-energy future.

“Absent a price on carbon, what are the things you can do? Well, you can create a demand for this thing, whether it be wind or solar or any form of renewable energy [and] say, ‘This is where we are heading,'” Chu said. “These are many of the things that we as a country should wrestle with and think about.”

In the interview with Platts, Chu struck a conciliatory note, saying it wasn’t up to him to pick the policy — such as a price on carbon or low-carbon energy-use mandates — that would support renewable energy “or clean energy” projects.

“This is a discussion that has to be held with Congress, with the American people,” Chu said. “What the country really wants, and what business really wants, are those long-term signals to say, ‘This is where the country is heading.’ “

He also said there would be other opportunities for common ground with Republicans in Congress, such as retrofitting buildings and homes to cut down on energy bills.

“We are working on ways to do this so it doesn’t require massive public-sector investment, but it is private-sector investment because it is going to be saving money,” Chu said. “I think that is a common ground.”

The full article on this interview is available at http://bit.ly/eVBdWp

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