Thursday, January 19, 2012

China Most Likely Country to Fund Renewables

A recent Bloomberg survey of key energy decision-makers concluded that China shows more government support than any other country for funding renewable energy. It also shows equally high support for transformational clean technologies, like smart grids and electric cars. With the right government backing, China could address its own energy security issues with technology to spare for export.

The graphs charting China’s economic growth and energy demand mirror one another: each resembles the left side of a mountain with no peak in sight. By the IEA’s reckoning, China’s electricity demand alone will nearly triple by 2035. On the surface, this may come across as resoundingly bad news to environmentalists. However, China’s industrial cloud has a strong green lining. And unlike the Olympics, China’s not just using green paint this time.

This year, Bloomberg Businessweek Research Services in partnership with ABB surveyed energy professionals, government officials and CFOs about the future of energy, the opportunities and the barriers. Among the results of this 2011 Energy Survey, China emerged as the strongest government supporter of clean energy technologies.

China’s renewable energy: Readers may remember that China’s wind power capacity surpassed the United States in 2010, and continues to grow. The National Development and Reform Commission estimates that China, the world leader in wind, could generate as much as 1 TW of wind energy by 2050. Similarly, this year China bumped its four-year targets for solar generation up by 50%, and the shear volume of solar panel production from the People’s Republic had US solar manufacturers suddenly in a panic.

Where will the greenbacks for China’s green energy growth come from? The Bloomberg survey shows that nearly 90% of Chinese energy decision-makers believe that the government should fund renewable energy growth. That makes China far and away the most enthusiastic about government support of renewables. By contrast, fewer than 40% of Americans surveyed think it’s the government’s role to fund clean energy. In the ongoing war of words between China and the US over climate change and energy security, those numbers speak volumes.

Smart grids: China will likely soon also be the world’s biggest smart grid market. Last year alone, it invested 3.7 billion US dollars in modernizing its electricity grid, and the so-called “12th Five-Year Plan” calls for wide installation of smart meters, IT software and other components of a smart grid over the next few years. The 2011 Energy Survey reflects the same strong government support of smart grids as for renewable energy. All of the decision-makers surveyed agreed that updating China’s is either somewhat important or very important. Moreover, as with renewable energy, over 90% believe that continued investment in China’s smart grid will come from the government.

Electric vehicles: With a smart grid with vehicle to grid technology in place, electric vehicles (EVs) also become a convenient way to store and provide energy to the grid. China’s planning to have one million EVs on the road by 2014. To support these electric cars, it’s building 400 electric vehicle charging stations by 2016. According to the 2011 Energy Survey, over 80% of Chinese decision-makers believe that the Chinese government should support the EV infrastructure, a full ten percent more than the next leading country and a great deal more than the USA, where fewer than 40% agree with government support for EVs. To this tune, the Chinese government is investing 100 billion Yuan (15 bn USD) in alternative fuel vehicles over the next ten years.

The 2011 Energy Survey is still open for participation for members of the public to give their input on the future of energy and compare their views with those of energy market decision-makers. Take the survey. You can also view a detailed list of the survey’s conclusions and watch related videos. For a summary of the conclusions, see this infographic.

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