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The surest way of knowing where the Chinese national government wants to go is to follow the money they put into mega-projects.

The development of Shenzhen and Pudong over the 6th – 9th Five Year Plans (FYP) showed the government’s attitude toward market-opening in the 1980s and 1990s. More recently, the Binhai project in Tianjin likewise demonstrates the central government’s commitment to clean energy development  and the China Medical Center in Jiangsu demonstrates their interest in advanced health technologies to combat cancer and other diseases affecting an aging population.

Cloud Computing is high on the government’s to-do list. Beijing is reported to have committed more than US$150 million (RMB 1 billion) to develop a 10 square kilometer “‘cloud computing’ Special Administrative Region (SAR)” for high-tech and start-up firms in the south-western city of Chongqing. Although the initial financial ante is modest, the stakes being played for are high.   Importantly, the cloud computing SAR will reportedly be exempted from the the country’s strict system of internet censorship control, known affectionately as  “The Great Firewall (GFW).”

For the issue of how Beijing’s central Five Year planning process translates to mega-projects, I try to tackle this in my book in the chapter called “Managing Hyper-Growth.”.

I was asked today what accounts for China’s outsized role in solar PV , amounting currently to roughly 50% of global share of production despite having a Lilliputian share of global consumption.  It comes down to three inconvenient truths.   That said, the degree of inconvenience of each truth varies with the point of view (e.g., ‘panda hugger’ vs ‘dragon slayer’ in the U.S. vs  ‘patriotic netizen’ in China) of who you happen to be talking with :

(1) Post-WWII, Asia (and notably China since 1982) has had clear advantages of cheaper land, cheaper labor and cheaper facilities relative to manufacturers in higher per capita income markets in the West. Since solar panel production has some basic similarities to the manufacturing process for computer memory chips (which in the 1990s were the basic ‘rice’ commodity of the IT boom in Asia), solar manufacturing has benefited from the natural ‘cluster effect’ of decades of chip manufacturing know-how of Chinese, Taiwanese and other investors on the mainland.

(2) The barriers to entry for solar manufacturers are lower than the earlier tech waves of integrated circuits and bio-technologies so national and local
government in China has seized on it to bootstrap their economies to a higher rung of the global value chain. This has meant various government subsidies (on the producer side) to the point of a casino mentality — more than 100 solar manufacturers in the single town of Dezhou in Shandong Province. (The Chinese government also rounded up and ramped up polysilicon supply when that key input for solar PV production tightened in 2010/11);

(3) There’s not yet an established market for solar products in China so almost everything is exported to Western markets — especially to those national
markets like Germany and Spain and state markets in the U.S. such as New Jersey that have been subsidizing the industry (on the consumer side). [Note: World Trade Organization rules tend to allow/encourage consumer-side subsidies and to sanction producer-side subsidies, hence the recent trade action by the 7 Western solar firms against China. However, these actions take time to work their way through the ‘python’ of WTO process).

As a wrote almost a year ago ( click here for link ), there’s a global boom/bust going on in PV solar and China is in the thick of it.

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.

In 2008 China could be seen rapidly closing the gap with the traditional wind market leaders – the U.S., Germany and Spain. By 2009, China, riding a massive post-GFC stimulus program, became the world’s largest buyer of wind turbine equipment. In that same year, the U.S. managed to maintain its strong pace of wind installations but Spain and Germany started falling off the global pace as post-GFC austerity forced them to drop governmental price supports (so-called “feed-in-tariffs” or FiTs) for wind installations. Finally, in 2010, China surpassed the U.S. in wind-power installations (18.9GW vs. 5.6GW) and emerged as the clear global front-runner for wind-energy purchases and installations.

But three caution flags are now waving for China:

(1) For the moment, there is still a huge asymmetry in the number of installations which GE has made in the Chinese market (over 1,000 in China alone, over 14,000 worldwide ) versus the number of installations Chinese wind-power companies have made in the U.S. market (3 installations, as of December 2010). Moreover, lingering tight credit strongly favors established market leaders when it comes to wind energy projects and, for now at least, financing costs are currently prohibitive for new entrants.  This is a substantial market hurdle for Chinese entrants to the lucrative U.S. market, not a government barrier.

(2) In a mid-summer 2011 settlement announced by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Chinese government agreed to stop subsidizing its wind power manufacturers. This put an end to a six-year, WTO-inconsistent effort known as Notice 1204 and led by National Development and Reform Commission, to favor Chinese suppliers in the manufacture and installation of Chinese wind-turbines.

(3) Earlier this week, China’s government adopted stricter regulations in anticipation of an expected “bloodbath among turbine producers” as reported by the Financial Times on October 24th.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint to the wind-energy future. Far too early to proclaim China the winner.


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.

What are the fundamental drivers transforming the landscape of opportunity for global cleantech?  Growing populations, diminishing quality of life, finite natural resources, financial and intellectual capital, and exponential proliferation of data.

As 13 million viewers on youTube have already seen, Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and Jeff Brenman have put together a brilliant, amped-up overview of our hyperbolic information curve.  Can we convert all that information into useful knowledge and perhaps even insight, if not true wisdom.  This video makes a pretty good case that the answer is sometimes ‘Yes.’

What are eco-cities in China? Why are so many popping up in China’s second-tier urban locations? What are the main drivers for this trend and what makes a sound eco-city development project or zone? Finally, what opportunities exist for foreign companies? TCBN Green Channel Editor Terry Cooke interviews Piper Stover, strategic advisor of China Dynamics, LLC, on China’s eco-cities initiative.

Background

China policy on eco-cities:
• The 11th 5 Year Plan included goals of lowering energy consumption per unit of GDP, specifically, energy consumption per unit of GDP should have decreased by 20 percent in 2010 compared to 2005.

•The draft for the 12th Five-Year Program (2011-2015), with additional policy overseeing eco-city development, will be finalized by China’s National People’s Congress in March, 2011.

China Eco-cities in the news:
Eco-city development projects have been announced in over 100 cities across China, however not all have been officially endorsed by China government regulatory authorities. Tongi University has conducted research citing nearly 170 self-proclaimed eco-cities.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) launched a national low-carbon province and low-carbon city experimental project in Beijing in August, 2010. The project is being implemented in five provinces: Guangdong, Liaoning, Hubei, Shaanxi and Yunnan, and in eight cities: Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Nanchang, Guiyang and Baoding.

Notable China Eco-city or Sustainable Community projects also include:
• Tangshan Caofeidian International Eco-city

• Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city

• Chongming Dongtan Eco-city (currently inactive)

• Shenzhen Guangming Eco-city, Guangdong Province

• Yangzhou Eco-city, Jiangsu Province

• Nanjing Eco-city, Jiangsu Province (several eco-cities and eco-business parks are under development)

• Huaibei Eco-city, Anhui Province

• Langfang Eco-city, China (outside of Beijing)

• Mengtougou Eco-city (outside of Beijing)

• Meixi Lake Eco-city, Changsha, Hunan Province (there are several additional eco-cities planned for this region)

• Rongcheng Eco-town and Weihai City, Shandong Province

• Huangbaiyu (currently abandoned)

• Chengdu, Sichuan

• Xiamen Eco-city “retrofit”

• Guiyang, Guizhou

• “US-China Eco-city Initiative” between the US Department of Energy (DOE)and China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD). Both sides are developing guidelines and policies to support the integration of energy efficiency and renewable energy into city design and operation. January, 2011.

Research and policy development
• Tongi University has conducted research citing over 160 eco-cities in China. UNEP-Tongji University Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development

Useful Eco-city Case Studies:
• Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city Project, released by World Bank on January 11, 2011

• Asian Development Bank’s overview on Eco-cities in China, “Eco-City Development: A New and Sustainable Way Forward?: November 2010

2011 Eco-city Events:
• The World Eco-city Summit, Montreal 2011, held August 22-26, 2011
www.ecocity2011.com

Interview Transcript

Terry Cooke: This is Terry Cooke, editor of TCBN’s Green Development Channel. I’m here with Piper Lounsbury Stover. Piper’s been active in China for the last 20 years working with companies on the ground. On recent years she’s had involvement with a number of eco-city projects. Piper, welcome.

Piper Lounsbury Stover: Thanks, Terry.

TC: We’re talking about eco-cities in China. For starters, can you just let us know what eco-cities are and why they seem to be popping up at a fast rate?

PLS: Sure. “Eco” – meaning ecologically sustainable cities. I think in the late – well, early to mid-90s, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection started to develop these ‘eco-city’ guidelines, which were really a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to conserve energy and water resources in several cities across China, starting as pilot project, and now expanding to hundreds of cities.

The main drivers to this development – China is facing massive migration right now. Almost 50% of China’s population currently lives in over 600 cities in China. Nearly 300 million will move from rural areas to Chinese cities in the next ten years, so this is a massive influx of people and China’s going to have to invest up to $3.6 trillion in urban infrastructure to handle that migration by 2020.

So with that, there’s going to be a growth of 2nd tier cities to handle the migration. And with that growth there is going to be continued strain on resources. So to conserve energy needs China’s has to implement policies. China will be increasing energy needs by 150% by 2020 and will have water issues. Water reclamation and water policies are going to be important because China, for its populations, has only a fourth of the world’s average water per capita. So it’s a big issue that the China Daily started reporting on in 2005 or 2006; we are seeing more and more domestic reports on water issues.

TC: And currently there’s a drought right now.

PLS: Exactly. So to address this from a policy perspective, the 11th Five Year Plan and the 12th Five Year Plan have advocated objectives to promote sustainability in these eco-cities. And that means opportunity – opportunity for companies, and certainly land and real estate developers to try to meet the challenge.

TC: Well we’ll get to that investment and commercial opportunity in just a moment. Before we do, Piper, could you just say a word about where these eco-cites are which are the biggest?

PLS: Sure. I mentioned the 2nd tier cities earlier. I think it’s important because when we think of the 1st tier cities in China we think of Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, areas, but these 2nd tier cities are growing, and provides opportunities for real estate development that did not exist previously. The biggest ones right now are occurring in these 2nd tier areas. We have two greenfield projects that are the largest – 30 sq km areas. One in is Tangshan, called the Caofeidian International Eco-city. I believe that is an eco-city in coordination with the government of Sweden. There is the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city – that’s a 30 sq km also sq area in Tianjin. And then there was the Kingdom Chongming Dongtan Eco-city. That was a really big eco city planned for an island off of Shanghai that hasn’t really gone anywhere, as I do not think the investment and the original plan worked out. While those are the obvious biggest, I have a whole list of others that I’d be glad to post after the call, including some in Shenzhen, in Jiangsu Province, in Anhui Province. There are many.

TC: Ok Piper. And you were just talking about the real estate development angle. You mentioned three premier projects, two of which seem to be moving forward well and one that seems to be stalled. From a project development and investment standpoint, what makes a sound eco-city project? What are the signs investors should look for?

PLS: Sure, there are probably five signs that I would look for if I were looking at a project. One would, obviously, be significant local and central government level support. You want to make sure the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) or the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MOHURD) are backing these projects with key performance indicators approved by these two organizations to make sure they’re on track with national standards.

And of course the land acquisition. That’s important. You want to make sure that these projects are not encroaching on farmland or other areas where inhabitants are living, and certainly converting non-arable wasteland has been one way to look at better utilizing land.

TC: Just to clarify that one, Piper, there’s a risk that if the local government has misappropriated land there would be political risk attached to that.

PLS: Certainly. That is one key issue, but also it is a higher cost in some areas to actually to move people. It’s very costly. So for those two reasons it is important to find out how the land was acquired and how it will be used (for the whole system).

And then there is location. You want to find out how far away these eco-cites are from an old city center – whether transportation is going to be convenient or not. Some of these eco-cities are located very close to rail lines or high-speed rails planned for the future, so that of course would be of interest to me.

The fourth and fifth would include: at what speed would the purchasing power of these cities develop? I know for 2nd tier cities this can be questionable. You want to make sure the economy will continue to grow, and you want growth predictions to be based on sound plans.

The fifth would be competition in the same area. If your company is looking at either investing or moving into one of these eco-cities, what is the competition around you? What human capital talents exist? And what are either other cities nearby or neighboring counties also doing to attract similar industries, or even your own competitors?

TC: Good. Those are key points for an investor to keep their eye on. What about the opportunity more broadly, for foreign businesses across the board to participate in and benefit from this trend of eco-cities throughout China?

PLS: Certainly with an opportunity to pursue either a green field investment or rehabilitation of some cities, opportunities exist for green building, green technology companies, green energy – renewable wind, solar, CHP, and other types of renewable energy technologies, as well as water and waste technologies. For all of these eco-cities. With already nearly 170 of these so-called eco-cities popping up around China, imagine the opportunity for green technologies in each of these cities.

So that is one area: products and services in the sustainable building sector. The other would be finance and investment opportunities – for R&D and start-ups. I could imagine incubators/ R&D facilities established in some of these areas outside of larger cities, depending on the location in China.

And then third – knowledge-based economy opportunities: in new media, computer networking, IT/ back office outsourcing-types of IT services, and problem solving and consulting. Certainly with the growing concern that China has scarce resources, there is a natural and understandable inclination to try to move from industrialization and heavy machinery/heavy energy and water-using industries to higher-value, knowledge-based services. The eco-cites would be targets to offer or create such knowledge-based service opportunities for companies looking for such.

TC: Piper you commented on the investment outlook and also the commercial opportunities. What about the durability of this trend in China from a business standpoint?

PLS: I would say that certainly we all understand the top-down policies either promulgated from the 11th or 12th Five Year Plan (to be reviewed in March 2011), are central to understanding where growth will happen, and that funding will be diverted to these eco-cites to make them a success, so can trust in that. However, at the same time we need to think about the greater economy and health at the local or regional level where these eco-cites are located, as well as the national level.

And because eco-cities are a more expensive operation to create (to meet stringent KPIs), you’ve got some very sensitive systems that do need management and attention. There is a danger that some shortcuts would be made to save money. I’ve heard one story in the past couple years where in an eco-city in a more remote location, the energy was considered expensive and so the lights were basically turned out during the winter to meet KPIs. In general, looking at the five or six points I mentioned earlier about making sure you’re researching the right eco-city and ensuring it is in a location that is sound and associated with strong economic growth, things should be okay.

TC: Piper earlier in our talk you identified three particular projects and then ticked off the names and a couple others that you will post to the TCBN website. One project that I did not hear you mention was the Chicago-Shanghai Eco-city agreement. Could you tell us a little bit about that particular agreement?

PLS: Well it’s a bit of a different animal, but I’m glad you mentioned that. I think, dating back to the Clinton administration, there was an effort to create a more cooperative information exchange, particularly between the DOE and China’s counterparts. I think that in the 2010 September timeframe, the DOE announced a new Chicago-Shanghai Eco-city. It’s basically a way for the two cities to trade best practices and to work together to develop standards and to help each other understand what could be possible in cities located throughout not only China but also the United States. So I think in this effort, if I’m not mistaken, there are 7 or 8 cities in the US and in China that may be paired together in this US-China-India Integrated Cities Initiative that is being coordinated by the US Department of Energy via the Brookhaven National Lab. It will help not only create more transparency and understanding of some of the standards that could evolve, but also to provide more of a quality control so that companies can have a bit of political cover in understanding which eco-cites are going to be considered sound and which are not.

TC: All right, well time’s drawing to a close, but in closing, Piper, let me just ask whether there’s just one project you’d like to highlight as a case study?

PLS: You know, in some of the research that I’ve done, I found one report to be very useful, which has made me think that this particular eco-city could be a success: the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city. A case study written by the World Bank, or I believe prepared based on a grant application that the Tianjin Eco-city had submitted to the World Bank. It is on the web and available to the public, and I think the study is the most recent comprehensive report I’ve found on eco-cities in China.

TC: Well great! Piper, thank you for your thoughts and your insights. We’ll possibility try to get back to you in a year or so and see how the progress with eco-cities has been.

PLS: Sounds great, Terry. Thanks. And I will post those cities for everyone to take a look at.

TC: Thank you. Bye bye.

TCBN’s Green Development Channel Editor Terry Cooke is the Founder of GC3 Strategy Inc., helping U.S. technology and investment firms since 2002 to create and sustain commercial partnerships in Greater China and India. >>See more on his profile>>

Piper Lounsbury Stover is the Principal for China Dynamics LLC, based in Vermont. She has nearly 20 years of experience in China business and policy.

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