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Archive for the ‘Clean Energy’ Category

Cross-posted from Americans for Energy Leadership

China is building an ambitious “Solar Valley City” as a new national center for manufacturing, research and development, education, and tourism around solar energy technologies. as part of the Chinese government and industry’s efforts to promote clean energy technology and grow the nation’s global market share (see video below beginning at 10 seconds).

Solar Valley City is located in Dezhou, Shandong Province, where I visited last month as part of a delegation from Stanford University, and it is unlike any city you’ve seen before. The city houses over 100 solar enterprises including major firms like Himin Solar Energy Group Ltd, the world’s largest manufacturing base of solar thermal products, and Ecco Solar Group. According to reports, around 800,000 people in Dezhou are employed in the solar industry, or one in three people of working age.

“China’s solar thermal industry and Himin’s complete industrial chain are examples for the rest of the world. That sounds brash, but it’s true,” said Himin’s CEO Huan Ming in 2009, now one of China’s richest men. Himin specializes in solar thermal technology, producing over twice the annual sales of all solar thermal systems in the United States, and it is quickly expanding into solar photovoltaics and other technologies.

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By Shreya Indukuri – ACE Youth Advisory Board Member

Last Monday, I had the great opportunity to go listen to our country’s Secretary of Energy, Steve Chu. After a brief overview of climate change and the reality of global warming due to the human race’s contribution of GHG emissions to the atmosphere, the secretary of energy laid down his thoughts for how the US can transform energy to combat the effects of climate change along with numerous other benefits.

Chu believes that “tens of billions of dollars as a minimum per year [should be] invested [to develop new energy technologies that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.]” The US is only allotting 3 billion dollars TOTAL to be invested in these technologies compared to China, who is investing 9 billion dollars MONTHLY to revolutionize their energy industry!!! Talk about scale.

When asked what students can do to resolve energy issues, he suggested “putting your computer to sleep”, “becoming better informed” and here’s my favorite “turning off the water tap!”

YES, I agree we must all do those things but seriously, there is SO MUCH MORE that we can do! He should be inspiring students to take leadership and discover and implement already existing energy solutions that can transform their school and community. Does he really expect a catalyst for change among this generation if the only suggestion he can give us is to “turn off the water tap and put your computer on hibernate mode?”

Though I was disappointed in the his advice to students, fortunately, Chu understands that the US is lagging very behind in this new upcoming energy revolution and he is eager to change that.

I thoroughly enjoyed the secretary’s new spin of famous hockey player’s Wayne Gretzky’s quote on how he is such a successful athlete “I skate to where the puck will be, not where it’s been.” Chu believes that “we have to get people in the United States to skate to where the world will be” in terms of implementing new energy technologies, not pray for oil prices to decrease.

I certainly will continue assisting students in my community implement a smart energy solution I found to be thoroughly effective but, I hope I can inspire students everywhere to take leadership and transform their community as well. “Turning of the tap” is simply not enough.

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Originally published by Clean Edge

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the United States faces serious questions about the future of its economy and jobs market. Where will the good jobs of the future come from, how do we prepare the American workforce, and what is our strategy to maintain economic leadership in an increasingly competitive world?

A growing consensus suggests that clean tech will be one of our generation’s largest growth sectors. The global clean-tech market is expected to surpass $1 trillion in value within the next few years, and a perfect storm of factors – from the inevitability of a carbon-constrained world, to skyrocketing global energy demand, to long-term oil price hikes – will drive global demand for clean-energy technologies.

That is why the national debate about global clean-tech competitiveness is so important, sparked by the rapid entry of China and other nations. My colleagues and I recently contributed to the discussion with “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant,” a large report providing the first comprehensive analysis of competitive positions among the U.S. and key Asian challengers. In order to compete, we found, “U.S. energy policy must include large, direct and coordinated investments in clean-technology R&D, manufacturing, deployment, and infrastructure.”

But even if the United States adopts a real industrial policy for clean energy, there is little evidence that our workforce is skilled enough to compete. Unfortunately, according to the Department of Energy, “The U.S. ranks behind other major nations in making the transitions required to educate students for emerging energy trades, research efforts and other professions to support the future energy technology mix.”

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Some food for thought here: friend-of-Breakthrough Generation, Nathan Wyeth, pens a very thoughtful column on the Copenhagen climate summit focused on the key challenges of fueling sustainable global development and expanded energy-access to the billions of energy poor worldwide, via the new WRI-affiliated blog, NextBillion.net:

Excerpts below with emphasis added:

Copenhagen Climate Summit: The Missing Billions

But although they are often discussed here as the first and worst victims of climate change, the base of the pyramid is, at first glance, invisible in the negotiations in the shape of solutions to climate change. Except in the context of avoiding tropical deforestation, carbon finance relevant to the base of the pyramid is at best a niche conversation. If intensive energy use and land development equal carbon emissions, the base of the pyramid would by definition not appear to be terribly relevant.

This means I have less to blog about except for maybe some side events, but plenty to say. I would argue that there’s is a huge amount wrong with the orientation of these negotiations and the fact that the base of the pyramid is absent gets to the heart of the issue. In a vicious cycle, the weakening of the negotiations will lead to failure in their intended impact, simply hurting the poor even more.

The G77 bloc is angling to increase the $10 billion in annual aid that developed nations are promising to provide in funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation. But it seems likely that there will be plenty of double-counting of that aid money and it’s not enough to begin with to address either mitigation (i.e. low-carbon development) or adaptation. And it’s unclear what this will go towards, who will manage it, what it will truly be intended to do.

As they have in previous years, the negotiations pit the world’s wealthiest 1 billion people against the 3-4 billion who have gained a some level of prosperity and are rising quickly. Who will cut back on carbon – those who already emit a lot, or those who are emitting some and want to emit more in the future? With the negotiations set up like this, it quickly becomes a zero-sum game. Since the UN process relies on the commitment of the nations that constitute it, as a zero-sum game it becomes useless as a force to raise the bar towards clean and sustainable development.

Left out of this picture are the 2-3 billion people who are essentially not using modern energy – at best a little bit of electricity from an unreliable grid, a little bit of kerosene for lighting, diesel to operate machinery or transport, and maybe charcoal or LPG for cooking. But likely using firewood or other biomass for cooking and as likely as not having no access to electricity at all.

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Cross-posted from LeadEnergy

An article at Bloomberg today, “Copenhagen Failure Defied by $200 Billion in Green Investments,” highlights the fact that China is now receiving more clean energy investment than the United States:

China Tops U.S.

Clean-energy development isn’t flowing to all countries equally, according to an October report from Deutsche Bank. Investment risks are lower in countries such as China and France that offer stronger incentives.

Investors spent $16.7 billion on clean energy in China in 2008, excluding stimulus funds, topping the U.S. total of $15.2 billion for the first time, said Jesse Jenkins, director of energy and climate policy at the Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland, California-based consulting firm.

Wind-energy producers in China get a premium for the electricity they supply to help make it competitive with cheaper power from burning coal or natural gas, he said.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t draw clear conclusions about the critical role of government investment in driving these markets, as we explain in “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant.” Instead the article cites Ralph Izzo, CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. as saying “U.S. companies are falling behind in clean technology because the country lacks a binding limit on carbon emissions, as would be required under a global treaty.” While it is true that a carbon cap would drive some private investment in clean technology, it would still be dwarfed by the direct public investments being made by China, South Korea, and Japan. Carbon capping and pricing is no substitute for a robust clean-tech innovation strategy, as we explain:

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Last month, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), as well as Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced the Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act, intended to boost the international competitiveness the U.S. solar manufacturing industry. After introducing the legislation, Senator Stabenow said it was necessary to “help us win the global race against China and other countries to produce solar technology in the clean energy economy.”

The bi-partisan legislation would extend the existing solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which offers a 30 percent tax credit for solar energy investment and deployment, to cover the construction of new solar manufacturing facilities as well. The ITC was recently given an eight-year extension in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) of 2008.

The new legislation would also give solar manufacturers access to the temporary cash grant program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which has successfully boosted the deployment of renewable technologies, primarily wind power.

The new U.S. legislation is the second in as many months that aims to support the domestic solar industry. In late October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, which would require the U.S. Department of Energy to appoint a group of experts to create a long-term plan to guide solar energy R&D and the commercialization of next-generation solar technologies. While the bill only authorizes $2.25 billion for solar R&D over the next five years, it represents a sizable increase in funding and a move toward a more strategic and targeted approach to clean energy development.

If the U.S. is to regain its position as a global leader in clean energy technology, and solar in particular, much more targeted policy support is needed. Both the Solar Technology Roadmap Act and the Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act are important first steps forward in developing a comprehensive clean energy economy strategy capable of revitalizing the U.S. economy and making the United States a world leader in clean energy technology once again.

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By Teryn Norris & Devon Swezey

Originally published by The Stanford Review

You know the world is changing when the president’s first trip to Asia is defined by a new U.S. foreign policy dubbed “strategic reassurance” – convincing China that the United States has no intention of containing its growing power or endangering its foreign investments. As the New York Times put it, “When President Obama visits China for the first time on Sunday, he will, in many ways, be assuming the role of profligate spender coming to pay respects to his banker.”

You also know times are changing when China, the world’s greatest polluter, and other Asian nations are poised to dominate the burgeoning global clean-tech industry by out-investing the United States. That’s the conclusion of a large new report we co-authored called “Rising Tigers, Timid Giant (PDF),” released this week by the Breakthrough Institute and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. The report is the first to thoroughly benchmark clean energy competitiveness in four nations – China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States – and finds the following:

“Asia’s rising ‘clean technology tigers’ – China, Japan, and South Korea – have already passed the United States in the production of virtually all clean energy technologies and over the next five years will out-invest the U.S. three-to-one in these sectors… While some U.S. firms will benefit from the establishment of joint ventures overseas, the jobs, tax revenues, and other benefits of clean tech growth will overwhelmingly accrue to Asian nations… Should the investment gap persist, the U.S. will import the overwhelming majority of clean energy technologies it deploys.”

What do these two changes have in common? They both reflect the accelerating shift of global power from America to Asia, caused in large part by the serious mismanagement of U.S. economic policy.

The Pacific power shift is not a new phenomenon, and the Obama administration is wise to seek stronger ties with the region. The U.S. should applaud Asia’s growth, which is partly an outcome of our own success at promoting economic liberalism and international development. This shift in power is not a zero-sum game, nor should it be: the U.S. and Asia should avoid trade wars at all costs, and we should seize opportunities for partnership on a range of issues, from climate change to nuclear proliferation.

But the growing pace of this power shift should be a cause of major concern for Americans, and it should raise serious questions about our economic policies at the highest level. While the U.S. economy has suffered greatly from a crisis produced by its own financial sector – losing millions of jobs, trillions in economic output, and demanding huge spending packages financed by borrowed money – China has shrugged off the global recession with high levels of growth and self-financed stimulus, all while purchasing billions of Treasury bills to fund a U.S. deficit that has reached historic highs.

Last November, addressing the nation on the evening of his election, President Obama declared that “a new era of American leadership is at hand.” And indeed, his new administration has taken significant steps to remake U.S. foreign policy. But unless the U.S. quickly improves its economic competitiveness, our global leadership will be severely damaged. What is demanded now is a major, coordinated national project to regain our economic competitiveness in strategic sectors while permanently correcting the imbalances that led to the Great Recession.

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