By V. John White, Founder and Executive Director of CEERT, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology. He collaborates with the Democracy Project on clean energy strategies.
BEIJING, September 21, 2014-
I had the honor of participating in a couple of meetings in Beijing, organized by the Energy Foundation in China, and Energy Innovation, Hal Harvey's think tank and foundation.
The meetings were organized around a plan that is being developed, or rather a scenario, based on the goal of achieving 80% renewable in China by 2050. It's called the "High Share of Renewables" study, and it is being worked on by a very substantial team of Chinese researchers, and seems to have some blessing or encouragement from the Central government. Disguised as one of the "international experts" brought in to advise them on issues and problems they will face with the grid, and with the matching of their renewables to the load, much as we are studying for 2030 modeling. They are very serious and engaged, and I think they are preparing for a debate at the highest levels, which is why they are preparing so thoroughly. Obviously, phasing out the coal plants is the critical matching step. But they are already getting a lot of attention, because coal power plants have the most impact on air pollution in Beijing, in winter, when it's cold, and in summer, when it's blazing hot; the level of pollution corresponds to the demand for electricity.
I came away encouraged and inspired by the vision they are pursuing, and hopeful that this work is known and supported at the highest levels. There is a huge political struggle, which lies ahead, but if they reach a consensus on changing course, it could alter the trajectory of clean energy and GHG emissions globally. They have mostly gotten rid of two stroke gasoline motorcycles, which were heavy polluters, and replaced them with electric motor bikes and electric bicycles. I was told they have exempted electric vehicles from the tax on imported cars, which can be up to 100%,. Charging infrastructure will be a challenge, but they do know how to build new infrastructure quickly.
The embedded power of fossil fuel industries is huge, but a new green dawn might be awakening. Bi lateral and sub national discussions, and deep NGO and foundation engagement is supporting the rapid expansion of China's intellectual and scientific infrastructure on renewables and advanced energy, seems to be moving the Central Government moving cautiously in that direction.
Grass roots opposition to incinerators and new coal plants, and public activism on air pollution are tolerated, and in some cases, encouraged, unlike other social issues, such as labor and civil rights.
After the first day of meetings, I was invited to a small banquet to honor the foreign experts and Chinese study team. I gave a toast to the New York climate march, and to the success of the UN meetings.
Here's to solutions in sight!