A win-win game on clean en­ergy

While com­pe­ti­tion and fric­tion make most head­lines re­gard­ing China-US re­la­tions these days, the grow­ing co­op­er­a­tion in clean en­ergy be­tween the world’s two largest economies is of­ten un­known to the gen­eral pub­lic, CHEN WEIHUA re­ports from Wash­ing­ton.

China Daily (Canada) - - IN DEPTH -

On Oc­to­ber 28, 2011, an Air China Boe­ing 747-400 took off from the Bei­jing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port and con­ducted a demon­stra­tion flight for about two hours. One of the jet en­gines was pow­ered by a 50-50 blend of Honey­well’s green jet fuel and stan­dard avi­a­tion petroleum fuel.

The bio­fuel was de­rived from ja­t­ropha, an ined­i­ble plant grown by PetroChina, one of the na­tion’s largest state-owned oil com­pa­nies, in south­west China and then re­fined by Honey­well.

It was part of a joint ef­fort by Air China, PetroChina, Boe­ing and Honey­well to cre­ate an avi­a­tion bio­fuel in­fra­struc­ture in China to ad­dress the grow­ing chal­lenges for sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth and car­bon emis­sion.

Such co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and the US in clean en­ergy has been ex­pand­ing rapidly over the years in ev­ery­thing from ad­vanced clean coal and shale gas to wind mills and nu­clear tech­nolo­gies.

“By lev­er­ag­ing and com­bin­ing the col­lec­tive in­ge­nu­ity of en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists in both the US and China, we can help un­lock a clean en­ergy revo­lu­tion by de­vel­op­ing smarter ap­proaches to pro­duc­tion and us­ing en­ergy,” said Sarah Forbes, a se­nior as­so­ciate in cli­mate and en­ergy pro­gram at the Wash­ing­ton-based World Re­sources In­sti­tute (WRI). Govern­ment um­brel­las

The bio­fuel in­volv­ing the Chi­nese and US com­pa­nies was part of the US-China En­ergy Co­op­er­a­tion Pro­gram (ECP) launched by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and then Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao dur­ing Obama’s first trip to Bei­jing in Novem­ber 2009.

Be­sides the sus­tain­able avi­a­tion bio­fuel project, pub­lic and pri­vate part­ners un­der the ECP have en­gaged in pro­grams such as the smart grid au­to­matic-de­mand re­sponse pi­lot project, a di­a­logue on mer­cury re­moval stan­dards for coal-fired power plants in China and a power plant emis­sion retro­fit fea­si­bil­ity study and pi­lot.

ECP it­self has some 10 work­ing groups to ad­dress dif­fer­ent needs, such as on clean coal, clean trans­porta­tion and fuel, en­ergy ef­fi­cient build­ing and de­sign, in­dus­try en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, en­ergy fi­nanc­ing and in­vest­ment, smart grid, nu­clear en­ergy, shale gas and re­new­able en­ergy.

Be­sides ECP, the two gov­ern­ments have also en­dorsed other vi­tal clean en­ergy col­lab­o­ra­tion pro­grams.

The US-China Clean En­ergy Re­search Cen­ter (CERC), for ex­am­ple, al­lows re­searchers from China and the US to work closely on the same tasks. The pro­gram is op­er­ated as a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship on both sides.

“Ap­prox­i­mately 1,100 re­searchers in the US and China are sup­ported by the work of the CERC,” Joanna Lewis, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and in­ter­na­tional af­fairs at the Ed­mund A. Walsh School of For­eign Ser­vice of Ge­orge­town Univer­sity, said in tes­ti­mony on April 25 be­fore the US-China Eco­nomic and Se­cu­rity Re­view Com­mis­sion (USCC) in Wash­ing­ton. The com­mis­sion holds reg­u­lar hear­ings on var­i­ous sub­jects re­gard­ing US-China re­la­tions. .

Mean­while, the US-China Re­new­able En­ergy Part­ner­ship (USCREP) in­cludes road map­ping re­new­able en­ergy de­ploy­ments in each coun­try, hold­ing an an­nual China-US re­new­able en­ergy fo­rum, and shar­ing best prac­tices by bring­ing to­gether sci­en­tists, en­trepreneurs and pol­i­cy­mak­ers from both coun­tries.

The US-China En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency Ac­tion Plan sup­ports of­fi­cials in both coun­tries to de­velop codes and rat­ing sys­tems and bench­mark in­dus­trial en­ergy ef­fi­ciency as well as a train­ing pro­gram for in­spec­tors and an an­nual US-China en­ergy ef­fi­ciency fo­rum.

The US-China elec­tric ve­hi­cles ini­tia­tive sup­ports joint-stan­dards de­vel­op­ment and demon­stra­tion in a dozen cities.

While the above were en­dorsed in 2009 dur­ing Obama’s first visit to China, the past year saw the es­tab­lish­ment of the China-US Cli­mate Change Work­ing Group (CCWG) un­der Obama and the cur­rent Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to deepen and ex­tend ex­ist­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion that spurs large-scale co­op­er­a­tive ef­forts.

The im­me­di­ate re­sult from the work­ing group was a com­mit­ment made last July by the two gov­ern­ments to work on five key is­sues: emis­sions re­duc­tion from heavy-duty and other ve­hi­cles, smart-grid, car­bon-cap­ture uti­liza­tion and stor­age, col­lect­ing and man­ag­ing green­house gas emis­sion data and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency in build­ing and in­dus­try.

Bi­lat­eral gov­ern­men­tal co­op­er­a­tion in clean en­ergy can be traced to 1979 when the two coun­tries signed the US-China Agree­ment on Co­op­er­a­tion in Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, soon af­ter the es­tab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions. The agree­ment laid the frame­work for sub­se­quent en­ergy-re­lated co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two na­tions.

In 2008, the two coun­tries launched the USChina 10-Year Frame­work for Co­op­er­a­tion on En­ergy and En­vi­ron­ment, which in­volves mul­ti­ple govern­ment agencies on both sides. It ad­dresses is­sues such as clean and ef­fi­cient elec­tric­ity, clean and ef­fi­cient trans­porta­tion, clean air, clean wa­ter, and con­ser­va­tion of for­est and wet­land. Good ra­tio­nale

For WRI’s Forbes, clean en­ergy makes good sense for China and the US, the world’s two largest en­ergy con­sumers and green­house gas emit­ters.

Many par­al­lels ex­ist in the US and Chi­nese en­ergy profiles. Both are con­ti­nent-sized coun­tries with ge­o­graph­i­cally dis­persed en­ergy re­sources and with en­ergy de­mand cen­ters that are of­ten far from en­ergy sup­plies.

“Both coun­tries cur­rently rely heav­ily on fos­sil fu­els to power their economies, pri­mar­ily draw­ing on coal, nat­u­ral gas and im­ported oil,” Forbes said in her tes­ti­mony be­fore the USCC. Both coun­tries seek to in­crease en­ergy in­de­pen­dence by di­ver­si­fy­ing the en­ergy mix and ramp­ing up do­mes­tic en­ergy pro­duc­tion, par­tic­u­larly un­con­ven­tional fos­sil fu­els such as shale gas and re­new­able en­ergy tech­nolo­gies, ac­cord­ing to Forbes.

Forbes be­lieves that in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion, and specif­i­cally US-China col­lab­o­ra­tion, is one way to cre­ate a col­lab­o­ra­tive net­work and build global ca­pac­ity among re­searchers and ul­ti­mately in the work­force.

She de­scribed it as “out­dated” that China is still at an age of only “ca­pac­ity build­ing” of “tech­nol­ogy trans­fer”.

“China is a global leader in clean-en­ergy in­vest­ment and in clean-en­ergy tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment and the ben­e­fits from US-China col­lab­o­ra­tion on clean en­ergy can and will be re­al­ized by both coun­tries,” said Forbes, who leads WRI ini­tia­tives on shale gas and car­bon diox­ide cap­ture and stor­age in China.

China’s clean-en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion ex­tends far be­yond the US. It has been work­ing on a wide range of clean-en­ergy tech­nolo­gies with the Euro­pean Union, Aus­tralia and Canada. Mu­tual ben­e­fits

For Leo­ca­dia Zak, di­rec­tor of the US Trade and De­vel­op­ment Agency, many of the bi­lat­eral pro­grams mean busi­ness and jobs for Amer­i­cans.

She said that the US-China En­ergy Co­op­er­a­tion Pro­gram, or ECP, was cre­ated in part to con­nect US businesses to the enor­mous op­por­tu­ni­ties that ex­ist in China’s $1 tril­lion clean-tech­nol­ogy mar­ket, as well as the sig­nif­i­cant en­ergy in­vest­ments planned by the Chi­nese govern­ment.

“The Chi­nese govern­ment in­tends to in­vest $530 bil­lion by 2020 on smart-grid in­fra­struc­ture. As the world’s tech­ni­cal lead­ers in dy­namic sub­sec­tors like smart grid, US in­dus­try can of­fer Chi­nese de­ci­sion-mak­ers goods and ser­vices that can help them achieve their am­bi­tious goals,” she said dur­ing her tes­ti­mony.

The same is true about re­duc­ing the emis­sions from heavy-duty trucks. In 2012, China sold nearly 4 mil­lion commercial heavy-duty ve­hi­cles, about seven times the size of US sales. Heavy-duty trucks are no­to­ri­ous for con­sum­ing

By lev­er­ag­ing and com­bin­ing the col­lec­tive in­ge­nu­ity of en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists in both the US and China, we can help un­lock a clean en­ergy revo­lu­tion by de­vel­op­ing smarter ap­proaches to pro­duc­tion and us­ing en­ergy.” SARAH FORBES SE­NIOR AS­SO­CIATE IN CLI­MATE AND EN­ERGY PRO­GRAM AT THE WASH­ING­TON-BASED WORLD RE­SOURCES IN­STI­TUTE

en­ergy and dis­charg­ing emis­sions. Zak be­lieves bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion can help China de­velop poli­cies that re­duce green­house gases and im­prove fuel con­sump­tion. It will also help level the play­ing field in trade for US businesses.

Forbes be­lieves an in­tan­gi­ble ben­e­fit of the co­op­er­a­tion is the co­op­er­a­tion it­self. The frame­work un­der which co­op­er­a­tion oc­curs pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for businesses, govern­ment agencies, and aca­demics within each coun­try to en­gage in dis­cus­sions and work jointly in ways that would not be pos­si­ble other­wise.

The two coun­tries have al­ready reaped tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits from the co­op­er­a­tion, such as in im­prov­ing en­vi­ron­ment and cre­at­ing jobs.

With as­sis­tance from the US Depart­ment of En­ergy Depart­ment (DOE), China en­acted its first-ever en­ergy code for ru­ral res­i­den­tial build­ings in May 2013.

DOE es­ti­mates that such a move could save up to 50 per­cent of the en­ergy used in res­i­dences that house 700 mil­lion people, in a foot­print equal to the en­tire US res­i­den­tial build­ing sec­tor, ac­cord­ing to Lewis of Ge­orge­town Univer­sity.

Mean­while, the Univer­sity of West Vir­ginia has worked with Chi­nese coun­ter­parts on stud­ies of car­bon stor­age and uti­liza­tion op­tions de­signed to re­duce re­leases of car­bon into the at­mos­phere.

One of its ef­forts with Shen­hua — China’s and the world’s largest coal-min­ing com­pany — has re­sulted in one of the first suc­cess­ful demon­stra­tions of car­bon cap­ture and stor­age (CCS) in China, ac­cord­ing to Jer­ald Fletcher, pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the US-China En­ergy Cen­ter at the univer­sity.

Un­der the bi­lat­eral gov­ern­men­tal pro­gram, the univer­sity has been work­ing closely with Chi­nese coun­ter­parts in ad­vanced coal tech­nol­ogy.

Mean­while, LP Amina, a North Carolin­abased com­pany, de­vel­oped and patented a new coal clas­si­fier to sort pul­ver­ized coal.

While the tech­nol­ogy could re­duce ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions by up to some 15 per­cent and with slight ef­fi­ciency im­prove­ments, cus­tomers in the US would not buy it be­cause it had not yet been demon­strated.

Through en­gage­ment in joint re­search and de­vel­op­ment and work­shops by the CERC’s Ad­vanced Coal Tech­nol­ogy Con­sor­tium, LP Amina in­stalled one of its new clas­si­fiers at the Feng­tai Power Sta­tion in East China’s An­hui prov­ince.

Af­ter the suc­cess­ful demon­stra­tion in China, LP Amina is now mar­ket­ing this tech­nol­ogy to global com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing plants in the US.

“The tech­nol­ogy was de­vel­oped here in the United States, demon­strated in China, and is now be­ing de­ployed glob­ally,” said Forbes of the World Re­sources In­sti­tute.

“And the in­no­va­tion is cre­at­ing Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, with each clas­si­fier keep­ing 10 to 20 man­u­fac­tur­ing work­ers busy for a month, and man­u­fac­tur­ers in Michi­gan, Ohio and West Vir­ginia have al­ready been put to work build­ing them,” she said.

China, whose coal con­sump­tion ac­counts more than half of the world’s to­tal each year, stands to ben­e­fit from progress in clean-coal tech­nolo­gies. The same is true in the nu­clear en­ergy sec­tor.

To Jane Nakano, a fel­low of the en­ergy and na­tional se­cu­rity pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Wash­ing­ton, the com­ple­men­tary abil­i­ties of China and the US in nu­clear en­ergy pro­vide a unique syn­ergy and ba­sis for in­creas­ing bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion.

“The United States has a wealth of ex­per­tise in nu­clear reg­u­la­tory mat­ters as well as strong ca­pa­bil­ity in re­ac­tor de­sign and tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion, yet the US nu­clear in­dus­try has lost the ro­bust­ness it once had in man­u­fac­tur­ing and de­ploy­ing nu­clear re­ac­tors,” she said. “In con­trast, China has a grow­ing nu­clear en­ergy sec­tor with a na­tional drive to be­come a global re­ac­tor sup­plier yet is short of reg­u­la­tory ex­per­tise and tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pac­ity.”

China has be­come a ma­jor player in civil­ian nu­clear en­ergy, ac­cord­ing to Nakano.

With 20 re­ac­tors on­line, China has 29 re­ac­tors un­der con­struc­tion, ac­count­ing for roughly 20 per­cent of global re­ac­tor con­struc­tion. The World Nu­clear As­so­ci­a­tion has stated that an additional 58 re­ac­tors are be­ing planned.

Nakano be­lieves that the na­tional ef­forts to raise non-fos­sil en­ergy to 11.4 per­cent of to­tal pri­mary en­ergy use and to re­duce car­bon in­ten­sity by 17 per­cent, both un­der the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), continues to drive nu­clear ex­pan­sion.

While the melt­down ac­ci­dent at Ja­pan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nu­clear Power Sta­tion led to a pause in Chi­nese nu­clear de­vel­op­ment and in­ten­sive in­spec­tion of the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties, it has not al­tered China’s com­mit­ment to nu­clear power, ac­cord­ing to Nakano.

Re­mark­able progress in the past years in­clude the first AP-1000 nu­clear re­ac­tor de­vel­oped by the West­ing­house and con­structed at San­men in Zhe­jiang prov­ince and Haiyang in Shan­dong prov­ince, both in East China.

While the first AP-1000 re­ac­tor in China is ex­pected to be on­line later this decade, Nakano be­lieves the AP-1000 rep­re­sents a mile­stone for the US nu­clear in­dus­try to gain a sig­nif­i­cant foothold in China’s grow­ing nu­clear-power mar­ket. Cre­at­ing jobs

Ac­cord­ing to West­ing­house, each of its projects in China cre­ates or sus­tains as many as 5,000 jobs in the US.

Quot­ing the safety apho­rism that a nu­clear ac­ci­dent any­where is an ac­ci­dent every­where, Nakano ex­pressed con­cerns both within China and in­ter­na­tion­ally about the grow­ing gap be­tween the rapid pace of Chi­nese nu­clear ex­pan­sion and the coun­try’s in­sti­tu­tional ca­pac­ity, both in terms of reg­u­la­tory frame­work and hu­man re­sources.

“Bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion in the area of nu­clear safety and reg­u­la­tions has be­come an im­por­tant area of civil­ian nu­clear en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries,” said Nakano.

Un­der a bi­lat­eral pro­to­col on nu­clear safety, the US Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion (NRC) plays a big role in per­son­nel train­ing. It means that Chi­nese reg­u­la­tors are al­lowed to ac­com­pany US in­spec­tors on op­er­at­ing re­ac­tor and re­ac­tor con­struc­tion in­spec­tions in the US, as well as par­tic­i­pat­ing in NRC staff train­ing at its fa­cil­ity in Ten­nessee.

De­spite the clear progress of clean-en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and the US, Forbes from the WRI be­lieves the co­op­er­a­tion can be im­proved by cre­at­ing more col­lab­o­ra­tive net­works to sup­port in­no­va­tors’ needs and build­ing ca­pac­ity in the work­force. Fund­ing in this area is still far from ad­e­quate.

She also sug­gested more high-level com­mu­ni­ca­tion and en­gage­ment. She hopes that there is an in­sti­tu­tional col­lab­o­ra­tive mech­a­nism be­tween the two coun­tries that would in­te­grate cur­rent plat­forms and pro­mote in­for­ma­tion shar­ing among com­ple­men­tary ef­forts.

Kelly Sims Gal­lagher, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional En­vi­ron­ment and Re­source Pol­icy at the Fletcher School at Tufts Univer­sity, has done ex­ten­sive re­search on coal and cli­mate change.

She pro­poses es­tab­lish­ing a ro­bust pro­gram of re­searcher ex­change, one that could last six to 12 months so it could build re­la­tion­ships and trust and col­lab­o­ra­tive re­search can con­tinue in deeper and more mean­ing­ful way.

“Ex­changes should not only be in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, but also in eco­nom­ics, pol­icy and pub­lic ac­cep­tance re­search,” she said.

While ground­work has been laid for fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion in clean en­ergy be­tween China and the US, Forbes likes to high­light a quote from the 2013 Joint US-China state­ment on cli­mate change:

“Force­ful, na­tion­ally ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion by the United States and China, in­clud­ing large scale co­op­er­a­tive ac­tion — is more crit­i­cal than ever. Such ac­tion is cru­cial to con­tain cli­mate change and to set the kind of pow­er­ful ex­am­ple that can in­spire the world.” Con­tact the writer at chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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