China solar panels

China's route to a modern economy is sometimes puzzling.  For those of us who grew up believing that the only industrialization worth having was the version where none of the critical steps were skipped over, China's seems almost haphazard.  For example, we were taught you had to have a native machine tool industry because that is where you learn the importance of precision and the value of technological dispersion.  Etc.  

China's strategy of selling its almost infinite labor supply cheaply to attract runaway industry has some obvious advantages over carefully taking all the steps.  The most notable is that they have managed to get their hands on some serious technology for almost nothing.  Now we will see if they can reverse engineer the lessons they skipped.  It IS entirely possible that this all works.  But if their chaotic energy development is any guide, those missing lessons left some serious gaps.

For example, they have installed so many new coal-fired electrical generation plants in the Beijing area so that is now blanketed in choking smog for weeks at a time during the winter.  These are new plants.  The Chinese could have sampled from thousands of examples to see how she should power her capital.  But Noooo!

Now China is making a big noise about their investment in renewables.  They already have some of the largest solar panel plants anywhere.  They have so much production capacity that they have triggered trade wars over solar panels.  Of course, as the world's biggest burner of coal, China probably has plenty of places where their solar panels would be a huge improvement over the coal smog.  Until those sites have been built out, China should probably stop exporting her necessary solar panels.

EU in new investigation of Chinese solar makers

sgb / hg (AFP, dpa) 29 MAY 2015

European solar-panel producers have long accused Chinese rivals of unfair competition, and a 2013 deal was meant to end the dispute. But EU firms say China is now fraudulently claiming its products are made elsewhere.

The European Commission says it is launching an investigation into suspicions that Chinese solar panels are being illegally shipped through Taiwan and Malaysia to bypass EU trade restrictions.

"The Commission has concluded that sufficient evidence exists to justify the initiation of an investigation," it said Friday in the EU's Official Journal.

The investigation is the latest salvo in a long-running trade dispute between the 28-member bloc and China. The EU long alleged that China, the world's largest producer of solar panels, unfairly subsidized solar companies to undercut European competitors. A 2013 agreement imposed import quotas and set a price floor for most Chinese makers of solar panels. It expires at the end of this year.

The nine-month investigation will try to establish whether Taiwanese and Malaysian companies are true producers of solar-power products or whether Chinese manufacturers used them as fronts in the hope of circumventing the agreement. European companies have repeatedly complained about alleged Chinese violations of the 2013 deal.

The latest probe comes in response to a complaint filed by the EU ProSun industry association. The groups's president, Milan Nitzschke, said struggling European producers were "severely damaged" by the alleged Chinese actions, estimating they had cost European makers half a billion euros ($550 million).

"Such circumvention is customs fraud and must be stopped," he said.

If China is found to be at fault, the European Commission could impose heavy anti-dumping duties on Chinese products. more

China’s investment in renewables soars by a third

By Kieran Cooke

Despite a slowdown in its economy and the continued reliance on coal, China is pumping billions of dollars into its renewable energy industry.

LONDON, 30 May, 2015 − China invested more than US$89 billion in renewable energy projects in the country in 2014 – a growth of 31% on the previous year, according to a detailed report on the country’s energy sector.

The soaring increase is revealed in a report by the US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). But it adds that fossil fuels − particularly coal − still look set to continue to dominate China’s power sector.

Coal is by far the most polluting fossil fuel, and China is the world’s leading emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Wind power production went up by nearly 40% in the 2012-13 period. Although there are still big gaps in the transmission infrastructure, the aim is to generate 200 gigawatts (GW) of electricity from wind by 2020.

Government subsidies

“China is also aggressively investing in solar power and hopes to increase capacity from 15 GW at the end of 2013 to 100 GW by the end of 2020,” says the EIA. Substantial government subsidies have helped to fuel growth in the solar sector.

The EIA says similar levels of expansion are happening in other non-fossil fuel industries, in line with the Beijing government’s goal of producing 15% of total energy consumption from non-fossil fuels by 2020.

A large-scale hydroelectricity programme continues, with dams being constructed throughout the country.

“Because of its cost effectiveness and sizeable resource potential, hydroelectricity has become China’s key source of renewable energy generation,” says the EIA’s analysis.

At present, China produces 230 GW of power from hydro, accounting for about 8% of total energy consumption. The goal is to increase this to 350 GW over the next five years.

Although there was a pause in China’s nuclear power plant construction programme in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the sector is now expanding at a rapid pace.

The EIA, quoting figures from the International Atomic Energy Agency, says China has added 10 reactors to its nuclear power capacity since the beginning of 2013. At present, installed nuclear power is 23 GW, but the aim is to more than double that figure by 2019.

Top coal producer

Although China’s renewables growth is impressive, its energy consumption is still dominated by fossil fuels.

Coal accounted for about 66% of energy consumption in 2012, says the EIA, with oil and gas making up an additional 20%. China is the world’s top coal producer, consumer and importer – and accounts for almost half of global coal consumption.

Coal consumption was almost three times higher in 2013 than in 2000, the report says. Due to a slowdown of growth in China’s economy and to increasing concerns about serious levels of air pollution in many parts of the country, coal consumption has slowed in recent years, but is likely to remain the main source of power for many years ahead.

Late last year, in what was described as a major step in the battle against climate change, China and the US agreed to cut back on their carbon emissions.

China says its emissions are likely to continue to rise in the short term, peaking in 2030, but will fall rapidly in the following years. – more