Bei­jing 2022 can be spring­board to greener fu­ture

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LAN LAN

The mo­ment for­mer In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee chief Juan An­to­nio Sa­ma­ranch an­nounced Bei­jing had won the 2008 Olympic Games is etched onmy mind.

Thou­sands of ju­bi­lant peo­ple took to the streets. There were hugs be­tween cheer­ing strangers. Driv­ers honked their horns wildly. It was a car­ni­val at­mos­phere.

When again the cap­i­tal was an­nounced as host of the 2022 Win­ter Olympics, I had hoped for the same, but this time the cel­e­bra­tions seemed a lot more sober.

I had ac­tu­ally had a sense of this when can­di­date cities such as Oslo in Nor­way ear­lier with­drewtheir bids, doubt­ing the logic of host­ing such an ex­pen­sive mega-sports event.

Hold­ing Olympic Games has be­come a huge chal­lenge for bid­ding cities, not only in terms of the ini­tial costs in­volved, but also be­cause of the ex­pected bill of main­tain­ing the venues and sta­di­ums af­ter the com­pe­ti­tion is over.

For China’s two co-host cities, Bei­jing and Zhangji­akou, prob­a­bly add in the price of mak­ing ar­ti­fi­cial or man-made snow from al­ready pre­cious wa­ter re­sources, and the likely ex­pen­di­ture starts to spi­ral.

But look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture, the 2022 games are ex­pected to pro­vide huge eco­nomic mo­men­tum to a wider Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion of 110 mil­lion peo­ple.

I view the event, par­tic­u­larly, as pro­vid­ing the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to fun­da­men­tally change China’s energy mix, by ini­ti­at­ing a new mech­a­nism for pro­mot­ing re­new­able energy and power in­dus­try re­form.

More than 90 per­cent of elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion in the re­gion was gen­er­ated from fos­sil fu­els last year, so sim­ply shut­ting down coal-fired plants in and around Bei­jing, will not be an op­tion as a third of its pol­lu­tion is ac­tu­ally im­ported from neigh­bor­ing re­gions.

Plans an­nounced by Zhangji­akou last week to boost the share of re­new­ables in its to­tal energy mix to 55 per­cent by 2020 are as welcome as they are am­bi­tious. Ger­many, a world’s leader in green energy, for in­stance, aims to in­crease its re­new­able energy gen­er­a­tion to 40 per­cent to 45 per­cent of to­tal elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion by 2025.

To reach its goal, of­fi­cials in Zhangji­akou have pledged ini­tia­tives such as ac­cel­er­at­ing power pric­ing re­forms, en­cour­ag­ing pri­vate com­pa­nies to in­vest in the con­struc­tion of “smart grids” and more energy stor­age fa­cil­i­ties, and pro­mot­ing a trans-re­gional pow­er­trad­ing mech­a­nism.

If it man­ages to put such plans in place, Zhangji­akou could be­come a global model for re­new­able-energy uti­liza­tion.

Although the share of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from re­new­able sources con­tin­ues to grow in China, the ef­fec­tive use of wind and so­lar power con­tin­ues to be a chal­lenge.

In the first six months of this year, more than 15 per­cent of the elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from wind power in China had re­stric­tions placed on it, a 6.8 per­cent rise on the pre­vi­ous year.

Sim­i­larly, about 1.8 bil­lion kilo­watt-hour elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from so­lar power had the same, mainly in north­west China, ac­cord­ing to the energy reg­u­la­tor.

The main rea­sons for the cur­tail­ments were a lack of trans­mis­sion ca­pac­ity, with the power grids still giv­ing pri­or­ity to coal-pow­ered plants.

Given such cir­cum­stances, quicker in­dus­try re­form is needed to pro­mote both trans-re­gional co­op­er­a­tion, and larger amounts of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from wind and so­lar must be bought by the power grid com­pa­nies.

Zhangji­akou of­fi­cials plan to trans­mit any ex­cess clean energy from the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion to energy-guz­zling cen­tral re­gions of China.

They have also pledged that all its public trans­porta­tion, roughly 40 per­cent of ur­ban power con­sump­tion, and half of all com­mer­cial and public-build­ing power con­sump­tion will be gen­er­ated from re­new­able sources by 2020.

Some skep­tics still fear that ve­hi­cles pow­ered by elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from coal-fired power sta­tions will still re­sult in more emis­sions than con­ven­tional cars pow­ered by petrol.

But Zhangji­akou’s idea of em­bed­ding cleaner ve­hi­cles into the fab­ric of China’s fu­ture energy de­vel­op­ment must surely be a model for other cities across the coun­try.

By win­ning the right to host the 2022 Win­ter Olympics, China’s ef­forts at clean­ing up its skies for good will take cen­ter stage, and act as a spring­board for its re­new­able energy in­dus­try. Con­tact the writer at lan­lan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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