San Francisco, Calif.-- Reporting from The End-to-End Smart Grid Seminar put on by the U.S. Department of Commerce.  

This conference covered a lot of ground, technically and regionally, but I'm going to limit this article to the China story.  Because it is huge and has the momentum to leave the United States energy business behind, mired in regulatory and standards quarrels, amidst political and bureaucratic paralysis without a true energy policy.

William Brekke, Senior Commercial Officer, U.S. Commercial Service, China spoke in San Francisco today. His job is to help U.S. companies get into the China market.

 

China's Green March

Brekke noted that China is a technocratic society -- while the U.S  government is overrun with lawyers, many Chinese government officials have engineering degrees.

China realizes that their recent pace of economic growth is unsustainable.  The country understands that their energy demands and pollution levels are unsustainable.  Sixteen of the globe's most polluted cities are in China, and China now has the dubious honor of being the top producer of greenhouse gases.

"So China's policy has changed.  It's no longer growth at any cost -- it has to be green GDP."

China is committed to change -- with a target of 40 percent improvement in energy intensity.

"We [the U.S] like to think we have a stimulus plan; China actually does."

Coal and Oil

  • China is Asia's largest oil producer and the world's second largest importer of oil.
  • China is building one 1,200 megawatt coal-fired power plant per week -- the country is tripling its coal consumption and becoming a net importer of coal
  • China is expanding its quest for natural resources, signing major deals in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South America.
  • Many engineers say that China has better coal plants than the U.S.

Nuclear

  • There are twenty nuclear plants under construction in China with many more in the planning stage.  They have a goal of 60 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2020.


Solar

  • China is now the number one global producer of photovoltaic cells.  They were barely on the map a few years ago insolarproduction.  There is $3 billion in Chinese government stimulus for solar.  Compare that with last week's announcement from Secretary Chu allotting $200 million for solar and water power technologies. The Chinese government will fund 50 percent of the cost of very large solar (>500 megawatt) installations and expects their solar market to increase to 20GW by 2020.


Wind

  • China, currently second in the world in wind, will soon be the leader, with a goal of 150 gigawatts by 2020.  


Hydropower

  • China is number one in the world in hydropower.


Smart Grid

  • China is working on ultra high voltage (UHV) power lines.

Green Buildings

  • Adopting new building codes
  • Expecting huge potential gains from energy efficiency

Clean Transportation

  • In 2005, China had 22 million cars on the road.  In 2030 the number is forecast at 295 million -- that's a 1340 percent increase. The goal is 60,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2012.


I spoke with Mr. Brekke after the presentation and he cautioned, "The Chinese are good at the large scale while U.S. firms do well at the distribution and retail level," adding: "It's not just China moving fast -- it's Japan, Korea and India."

 

Some recent writings from Greentech Media on China:

Lookout Greentech World: China's BYD is Coming

Is China Putting the Brakes on its Solar Program?

China's Domestic Solar Market -- Time to Wake Up

Suntech Aims to Triple American Sales

Coda Affirms $394 Million in Chinese Investment

Booming China Solar -- NeoSolar Power