New Hampshire, USA -- As China's national legislature opens up its annual meeting this week, issues of reducing carbon emissions and energy use are squarely on the table, perhaps signaling that incoming Premier Li Keqiang will push harder on environmental and energy concerns than his predecessor Wen Jiabao. China's State Council reportedly could spend 2.37 trillion yuan (US $380 billion) from 2010-2015 on such measures, and the nation plans to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 16 percent and carbon intensity by 17 percent over that period.
"We will make greater efforts to conserve energy and resources and protect the environment," said the NDRC to Bloomberg.
China continues to be a major player on the renewable energy scene, both as a growing consumer and as a supplier both domestically and worldwide, and we've been keenly tracking its rising projections for renewable energy adoption, with the most recent target of 49 gigawatts (GW) to be added this year, spread across hydro, wind, and solar.
The recent, and heavily publicized, smog issues in China are the latest reasons the country is in the spotlight for energy and environmental quality topics. Nevertheless, "what China desperately needs now are new low-cost clean energy technologies that can be implemented quickly and on a scale that competes with coal-fired power plants (and the prospect of LNG imports from the U.S.)," wrote Louis Schwartz from China Strategies, just over a month ago. Other readers suggest no game-changing technology or policy is needed, only adherence to rules set forth by other nations (including the U.S.) and its own resources.
IN THE NEWS
EU to Register Chinese Solar Panels: As a further step in its solar trade dispute with China, The European Union is now registering imports of Chinese solar panels, a move that would enable any duties to be imposed retroactively. The two related cases cover €21 billion (US $27 billion) of solar cell and module imports into Europe during 2011.
Welspun Gets Financing for India's Largest Solar Plant: Welspun Group, India's biggest solar developer, has gained 8.85 billion rupees (US $161 million) from lenders led by Central Bank of India to finance its 130-megawatt venture in the Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh, slated to come online next spring.
Hitachi Zosen, Statoil to Bring Floating Offshore Wind to Japan: Hitachi Zose wants to bring Statoil ASA's "Hywind" floating wind turbine technology to Japan, which is surrounded by deep ocean waters. A group of Japanese companies are studying offshore wind technology, planning pilot plants of about 7.5 MW each by 2016 and ultimately building out 300 MW of capacity in 2022.
Tamil Nadu Biomass Producers Slam Electricity Duty: The Tamil Nadu Biomass Power Producers Association is lobbying for the removal of an "electricity duty" on biomass power, and has a promise from the chairman of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board to take up the matter with the Revenue Department. The state has about 150 MW of biomass power plants, but a third of it is idle due to fuel prices.
India Budget Revives Wind Subsidy, Introduces Low-Cost Loans: India has reintroduced a subsidy for wind farms and announced low-cost loans for clean energy generators in its budget for the year starting April 1. The government is allocating 8 billion rupees (US $147 million) to the renewable energy ministry for the subsidy -- the withdrawal of which contributed to a 50 percent drop in capacity additions in the current fiscal year, after more than doubling from 2009-2011.
News from China's Solar Industry: Big Get Better, Smaller Suffer: It's a tale of two sectors in China's solar industry, points out contributor Doug Young. Yingli Green Energy's preliminary fourth-quarter forecasts look quite encouraging, with the solar panel maker still making profits and riding a surge in shipments. Meantime, the smaller Chaori Sola sent out the industry's latest warning signal, with word it may miss an upcoming bond payment.
TEPCO Approves Solar Surcharge: Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has approved a "solar surcharge" of ¥0.06/kWh in April 2013, and a rate of ¥0.05/kWh from May through the end of the new fiscal year (March 2014). A "renewable energy surcharge" of ¥0.22/kWh will be applied in April, with the price for May and beyond yet to be calculated.
Showa Shell Sekiyu, Ube Plan Solar Power Plant: Showa Shell Sekiyu and Ube Industries are planning to build a 21.3-MW plant on "idle land" owned by Ube in Yamaguchi Prefecture, with all the power sold to Chugoku Electric Power Co. Ltd. Solar Frontier, a business unit of Showa Shell, will supply its thin-film panels for the project.
Aussies Mulling Conversion of Coal-Fired Power Station to Cogeneration: The Australian Government is backing a feasibility study into possible conversion of the 180 MW coal-fired Collinsville Power Station in Queensland into a 30-MW hybrid gas/solar thermal plant. The study, focusing on Novatec Solar's Linear Fresnel Solar Thermal technology, is hoped to be a guide for other generators to assess using solar thermal technologies at coal-fired plants.
Vestas to Japan: Improve Your Grid for Renewables: Vestas Wind Systems A/S wants to increase cooperation with Japanese companies to expand the domestic wind energy market — but the country needs to improve access to its electricity grid and allow power sales across regions, emphasized CEO Ditlev Engel, speaking at a regional wind power event.
A DEEPER LOOK
Focusing on India's Bigger Power Picture: India's fledgling solar market was largely export-driven until the past year; now "foreign imports are killing Indian manufacturers," and the nation's local content provisions are now under scrutiny in yet another multinational antidumping investigation, notes Mercom Group's Raj Prabhu. But beyond the first lesson of solar markets -- "there's just no correlation between growth in domestic demand and manufacturing capacity expansion" -- he urges India to maintain its focus on its broader concerns: 400 million of its citizens don't have power, the largest such population of any country. "India has a chance to leap frog into renewables and distributed generation and be one of the first countries where alternative energy sources could become 'conventional sources of energy,'" he writes. To do that, India must "maintain focus on creating a fertile policy environment for private and foreign investments in the power sector, which in turn, will help fuel economic growth. With strong demand, supply will follow and domestic manufacturing will flourish."
Kerala Draft Solar Policy Focuses on Decentralized Solar: The south Indian state of Kerala has published a draft solar policy targeting 500 MW by 2017 and 1.5 GW by 2030, and the state has already initiated a 10,000 rooftop solar power program. Unlike the National Solar Mission (NSM), the state will incentivize distributed solar through feed-in tariffs. As with fellow Indian state Tamil Nadu, the burden will be shouldered by large power consumers instead of state-owned distribution company DISCOM, which "may be the only viable option for implementing the Renewable Purchase Obligations." And if more Indian states likewise mandate Solar Procurement Obligations (SPOs) for commercial/industrial customers, "it can revitalize the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) market that is currently written off by many stakeholders due the lack of RPO implementation," notes Bridge to India consultant Jasmeet Khurana.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Lead image: Skyscrapers of Shanghai Pudong Lujiazui at dusk, via Shutterstock