SHANGHAI - With its fast urbanization and unequivocal commitment to a low-carbon economy, China has a major role to play in the international race toward a "green" society and is helping to drive the development of new technologies and products to meet the growing demand for ecological solutions.
"We're having a green race going on... about which country is to be the leading supplier of solutions in a world that is going to be resource- and carbon-constrained. China is in a position to lead the world in that race," said Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a coalition of some 200 companies dealing exclusively with business and sustainable development.
With China's 12th Five-Year plan (2011-2015) set to build up the long-term competitiveness of Chinese energy industry in the international market, it would pave the way for the country to become "a leading exporter" of green technologies and products, said Stigson, who co-chaired the Low Carbon Economy Task Force under the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, a high-level advisory body conducting research and providing policy recommendations to the Chinese government.
Although the energy plan for 2011 to 2015 will not be published until March next year at the earliest when the National People's Congress meets in an annual session, Stigson, whose job within the task force offered the opportunity of input into the plan, said it sets very ambitious targets for renewable energy and would help drive demand in the home market and build competence if China achieves the targets being discussed.
The world's top user of carbon-intensive coal has already said it wants to raise the proportion of non-fossil fuels in total energy use to 15 percent by 2020 from less than 9 percent last year. It also promised to cut carbon intensity per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.
"In China, as in other Asian countries, we see a growing awareness of the business opportunities in green growth," said Stigson. "China is one place where the green economic growth and business opportunities are occurring faster than perhaps anywhere else on earth.
"Just three years ago, China had only three percent of the global solar market. Today, it has captured 50 percent. From 2008 to 2009, China doubled its wind generation capacity, and in 2009 it overtook the United States in new installations and manufacturing of wind turbines."
For Michael Morris, president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power (AEP), China is "a very, very advanced technological base" in the energy sector from where AEP can gain advantage by technology interchange. The company has launched joint ventures and entered into memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with a number of Chinese companies.
"The MOUs and joint intellectual exchanges are important to us. We think it's a mutual learning opportunity where hopefully we have much to offer and in turn will receive much as well from the technological advancement China has here," said Morris.
Overseas utilities such as AEP, facing possible CO2 abatement bills at home, are counting on China to lead the global effort to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS).
"China is moving forward in CCS, and ultimately might well be a vendor of that technology to companies like ours and others as well," he said.
But the two biggest challenges for China in realizing targets about energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions are buildings and transport, as is pointed out by Stigson. China is on a fast track to urbanize the population, a task that will involve increasing demand for housing and energy.
China is going to double the number of people that currently live in cities by 2050 - a level of urbanization beyond anything that has ever existed. In the next 15 years alone, more than 400 million people will be brought from rural areas to cities in the country to sustain its fast economic growth.
But China's annual primary energy consumption must be kept to below 4.2 billion metric tons of standard coal equivalent by 2015 in order to achieve 2020 emission and clean-energy goals, Jiang Bing, head of the development and planning department under the National Energy Administration, said in October.
"The number of buildings that China has to build over the next few decades is enormous. If they are built according to today's standards, there is no chance China can reach its targets.
"There have to be correct building codes and a push for energy efficiency in buildings," said Stigson.
(China Daily 11/15/2010 page20)