- Manufacturing excellence is great—but does it really trump fire?
- Playing industrial catch-up is easier than leading the pack.
- If Asia isn't setting the industrial pace—who is? If the answer is Germany, perhaps that explains the growing interest in renewables.
Winds of change blow through China as spending on renewable energy soarsSo how does USA respond to the idea that China has now passed us in equipment like solar panels?
World's biggest polluter spends £4bn a year on wind and solar power generation in single region as it aims to cut fossil fuel use
Jonathan Watts in Jiuquan
guardian.co.uk, Monday 19 March 2012 1
The remote, wind-blasted desert of northwestern Gansu could be the most unloved, environmentally abused corner of China. It is home to the country's first oilfield and several of the coalmines and steel factories that have contributed to China's notoriety as the planet's biggest polluter and carbon dioxide emitter.
But in the past few years, the landscape has started to undergo a transformation as Gansu has moved to the frontline of government efforts to reinvent China's economy with a massive investment in renewable energy.
The change is evident soon after driving across the plains from Jiuquan, an ancient garrison town on the Silk Road that is now a base for more than 50 energy companies.
Wind turbines, which were almost unknown five years ago, stretch into the distance, competing only with far mountains and new pylons for space on the horizon. Jiuquan alone now has the capacity to generate 6GW of wind energy – roughly equivalent to that of the whole UK. The plan is to more than triple that by 2015, when this area could become the biggest windfarm in the world.
This is the other side of China's development. Although it is the world's biggest CO2 emitter and notorious for building the equivalent of a 400MW coal-fired power station every three days, it is also erecting 36 wind turbines a day and building a robust new electricity grid to send this power thousands of miles across the country from the deserts of the west to the cities of the east.It is part of a long-term plan to supply 15% of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2020. Most of that will come from nuclear and hydropower, but the government is also tapping the wind and solar potential of the deserts, mountain plateaus and coastlines.
The scale of investment has led to hopes that China may emerge as the world's first green superpower. This is premature. Breakneck economic growth has left much of the country enshrouded in a murky grey smog. But the environmental crisis is so bad that it is a driver for change. more
US to impose tariff on Chinese solar panels in victory for domestic makers
American solar panel manufactuers welcome Obama administration decision, saying it exposes unfair trade practices
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 20 March 2012
The Obama administration, which regularly champions America's cleanenergy industry, has delivered modest support for home-grown solar panel makers complaining of unfair competition from China
In a much-anticipated decision, the commerce department on Tuesday said it would impose tariffs of 2.9% to 4.73% on Chinese-made solar panels, after finding the Beijing government was providing illegal subsidies to manufacturers.
The commerce department could impose heavier penalties in May, when it is due to decide whether China is dumping solar panels at prices below their actual cost.
But Tuesday's move did not suggest the Obama adminstration is willing to risk a trade war with China in support of struggling solar panel manufacturers.
Domestic solar panel makers, who had requested the tariffs, welcomed the decision, saying it had helped expose unfair Chinese trade practices.
"Today's announcement affirms what US manufacturers have long known: Chinese manufacturers have received unfair and WTO-illegal subsidies," Steve Ostrenga, an executive who is a member of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, said in a statement. "We look forward to addressing all of China's unfair trade practices in the solar industry."
Solar installation companies, whose business relies on Chinese-made panels, expressed relief that the small tariffs would not drive up costs.
"This is a huge victory for the US solar industry and our 100,000 employees," said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. "Given all our expectations, this is really good news."
But there were some suggestions that the Obama administration was sending a mixed message on its support for the renewable energy industry.
Some industry executives had hoped for a greater show of support from the administration – even at the risk of causing a trade rift with China.
Obama, in the White House and on the campaign trail, has regularly held up the renewable energy industry as an example of American innovation – noting that solar power was invented at Bell Labs. But China has now taken the lead, with more than 700 manufacturers of solar panels.
A few of those Chinese companies have acknowledged receiving cheap loans and other government support.The king of Asian manufacturing is still Japan. How they decide to reaction to current energy uncertainties will probably set the path for the rest of Asia if not the world. And right now the country is very angry about the roken promise of nuclear power generation.
But low-cost solar panels are also helping some sections of America's clean energy industry.
The energy secretary, Steven Chu, who was grilled on his department's support for solar power in Congress earlier Tuesday, proudly noted during his testimony that America overtook China in clean energy investment last year.
The US made $56bn in clean energy investment in 2011, overtaking China, which invested $47.4bn. Much of the US investment represented the tail end of the 2009 recovery act funds.
What Chu left unmentioned, however, was that the growth of the US clean energy industry was led by the plummeting costs of Chinese-made solar panels, which brought solar farms closer to the cost of electricity generated from fossil fuels. more
The Japanese Are Quietly Revolting Against Nuclear Power
Wolf Richter Mar. 19, 2012
New revelations seeped out about the control Japan’s nuclear industry had over its regulators. In early 2006, five years before the apparently preventable meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), an "independent" agency, began studying the enlargement of disaster-mitigation zones around nuclear power plants—from Japan’s standard 8-10 km to the International Atomic Energy Agency's standard of a 5-km “top priority zone” and a 30-km “priority zone.”
But the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which is under the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI), demanded the study be shelved, claiming in emails that were just released that the expansion ''could cause social unrest and increase popular anxiety.”
It worked. But if the expansion of the zones had been implemented, it could have prevented the chaos of the evacuations from the areas around the Fukushima plant—and the deaths that occurred during it.
Another revelation seeped out Saturday. In 2005, the IAEA proposed that emergency food regulations should be prepared for a zone with a radius of 300 km around nuclear power plants—a relatively large area on the narrow Japanese islands. But members of the NISA, the NSC, and the METI requested the removal of any reference to the “300 km.” They were worried about "negative publicity and other factors."
It worked again. However, the validity of the 300-km food regulation zone has been confirmed: "Radioactive cesium exceeded the safety standard in tea leaves from Shizuoka Prefecture, more than 300 km from the Fukushima plant," said Hideaki Tsuzuku, a director at the NSC, which is currently re-reviewing the guidelines.
Continuous revelations of how much Japan Inc. had conspired to accomplish its goals at the expense of the people have an impact: the people, known for their patience, have become impatient with the nuclear industry and its regulators—stirred up further by the daily drumbeat of the insidious spread of nuclear contamination: more