New electric buses and a charging station in Chengdu City. (Source: http://scnews.newssc.org/system/2012/07/31/013588311.shtml)

Over the past 30 years, China’s rapid economic growth and industry development have been driven in large part by specific national plans that set very ambitious targets for certain industries. The electric vehicle (EV) industry is no exception. Yet even with prioritization by the central government, the EV industry does not seem to be on track to meet its targets.

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology’s (MOST) 12th Five-Year Plan for Electric Vehicles and the State Council’s Energy-saving and New Energy Automotive Industry Development Plan released in 2012, 500,000 EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are to be deployed by 2015, along with 400,000 charging piles and 2,000 charging or battery-switching stations. The nation is targeting 5 million EVs and PHEVs on the road by 2020.

In addition, MOST and other governmental entities, such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and National Development and Reform Commission, initiated the “10 Cities and 1,000 Vehicles” program in 2009 to support EV development in 25 cities by providing subsidies.

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12th Five-Year Plan, China, electric vehicles, energy policy, green transportation

Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city (SSTEC), China’s latest and largest eco-city project, saw its first residents earlier this year. The city is built on a blend of non-arable saline and alkaline land that was virtually uninhabitable five years ago. While this is an accomplishment in and of itself, SSTEC is trying to go even greener in terms of the energy efficiency of its buildings.

Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city in 2012 (Source: http://www.tianjinecocity.gov.sg/)

SSTEC aims to offer green building certification based on more stringent standards than anywhere else in the country, including the national standards. It has already set up a Green Building Evaluation Committee (GBEC) to supervise building quality.

But in terms of energy efficiency, SSTEC’s GBEC still lacks the clearly defined requirements found in comprehensive international standards like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. According to a World Bank report, the GBEC provides standards only for the building envelope and central heating, unlike LEED, which covers a broad range of energy systems including lighting, air conditioning, water heating, and appliances. While the ambition in this eco-city project is commendable, the oversights in SSTEC’s efficiency standards reflect a lack of comprehensiveness in green building standards across China, as the GBEC is already the country’s most advanced and comprehensive building standard.

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12th Five-Year Plan, China, emissions trading, energy efficiency, energy policy, Green Buildings, greenhouse gas emissions, LEED

By Wenna Wang and Haibing Ma

Source: EIA | Distribution of China's shale gas basins.

On June 27th, 5 shares of shale gas reached their daily limits at Shanghai Composite Index, the largest stock market in China, lifting the whole Oil & Gas sector above the otherwise decreasing Chinese stock market. This was stimulated by a signal from the nation’s Ministry of Land and Resources: the second round of shale gas exploration rights is expected to open for bidding in September, and this time it will be open to private investors.

Shale gas, which is natural gas found in hydrocarbon rich shale formations, is one of the most important unconventional sources of natural gas and represents a rapidly expanding trend in onshore gas exploration and production today. The deposits are mainly extracted through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Though it is not an ideal alternative to conventional energy sources, shale gas can be a key to energy independence and a lower carbon footprint, since it produces 43 percent and 30 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than coal and oil per thermal unit produced, respectively. However, not everything about shale gas is an improvement, as its extraction process may contaminate ground water and release volatile compounds into the soil, while the use of shale gas will still lead to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The main mining techniques used for extraction, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have been linked to various problems like water shortages, groundwater contamination, methane gas seeps, micro-earthquakes and coal fires. Sample surveys show that methane concentrations were 17-times higher on average (19.2 mg/L) in shallow wells located in active drilling and extraction areas than in wells located in non-active areas (1.1 mg/L on average). In addition, there are studies showing properties with shale gas wells were valued down due to the fracturing.

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12th Five-Year Plan, China, Climate Change, energy demand, green house gases, low-carbon, renewable energy, shale gas, sustainable development

By Haibing Ma

Guangdong is releasing a series of policies to ensure a green future. ©nfdaily.cn

According to media reports, Guangdong province has taken the lead in becoming the pioneer of low-carbon practices in China. Guangdong is one of 13 pilot regions—including five provinces and eight municipalities—that the Chinese government has selected to explore low-carbon development. So far, it is the only pilot region that has issued a comprehensive plan for this development and had it approved by the central government.

In January 2012, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) reviewed and then “approved with positive comments” Guandong’s “Implementation Plan for Low-Carbon Pilot Programs.” Although this plan has not been made public, it reportedly lays out eight “key actions”:

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12th Five-Year Plan, cap and trade, carbon emission, carbon intensity, China, emission trading, energy intensity, green development, Guangdong province, low-carbon, MRV, NDRC, pilot program, statistics

By Haibing Ma

Provinces and municipalities had been competing to establish emissions trading systems (Source: nddaily).

In an article co-authored with my colleague Alexander Ochs in September 2010, we discussed China’s interest in setting up a scheme for carbon-emissions trading in the next five years. Now, the deal is set: The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) recently issued an official notice to initiate pilot carbon-trading programs in seven regions. By embracing market-based approaches to mitigating climate change, China is seeking to facilitate a smooth and efficient transition to sustainable development.

The seven pilot regions are the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Shenzhen, as well as Guangdong and Hubei provinces. It’s no surprise that some of these regions overlap with China’s “Five Provinces, Eight Cities” pilot program on low-carbon development, initiated in 2010. Although details of the emissions trading programs have not been elaborated, designation of the pilot regions indicates that the central government has finally made up its mind to issue clearer guidance on exploring carbon markets, in order to better coordinate existing municipal and provincial interest in emissions trading.

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12th Five-Year Plan, absolute cap, carbon emission, carbon intensity, carbon tax, China, emission trading, energy intensity, environmental equities, Grand Western Development Program, NDRC, pilot, preferential policies, Special Economic Zone, voluntary

At the opening ceremony of the 5th World Future Energy Summit, held in Abu Dhabi on January 16, 2012, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao assured the world that China will stick to a green and sustainable development path. As the highest-ranking Chinese official ever to present at the summit, Wen’s speech delivered a clear message to the world about what China plans to do to secure its future development.

Premier Wen Jiabao gives his speech in Abu Dhabi.

But sustainable actions already being pursued in China provide an even more convincing picture than the premier’s words. In its 12th Five-Year Plan—an overarching guidance framework used in Chinese policymaking—China includes a fairly comprehensive collection of sustainable development goals, among them energy intensity and carbon-emission intensity targets. Because the Five-Year Plan lays out only very general goals and measures, it is up to individual ministries or the State Council, China’s cabinet to sketch out and pursue implementation.

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12th Five-Year Plan, carbon intensity, carbon market, China, clean industry, emerging strategic sectors, emission trading, energy conservation, energy intensity, NDRC, renewable energy, sectoral structure, sustainable development, sustainable transition

Solar Panels installed on the roof of the 2010 World Expo Theme Pavilion in Shanghai

By Qiong Xie

China’s energy regulator, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), announced its first nationwide feed-in-tariff (FiT) for solar photovoltaic (PV) installation projects on July 24th, 2011, in an effort that it would boost its domestic solar industry and increase the share of solar power in China’s energy portfolio. The unveiling of the feed-in-tariff policy has shed light on China’s goal to achieve 50 gigawatt (GW) of solar installation by 2020.

Before the first nationwide FiT for solar PV projects was announced this past July, the Chinese government had sponsored two rounds of public tender since 2009. The first public tender in 2009 ended with a single solar project: a 10 megawatt (MW) installed capacity solar power plant in Dun Huang, Gansu province. The Dun Huang tender provides the solar developers with a payment of RMB1.09 (RMB is the abbreviation of Chinese currency, RMB1.09 is equal to approximately US $0.170, including tax) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for their solar power feed into the grid. Besides, China initiated its second round of public tender for concession solar power projects in 2010. At the end of this tender, 13 projects were announced with a total installed solar power capacity of 280 MW. To be more specific, it is reported that the winning bids ranged from RMB 0.728 per kWh (approximately $ 0.114, including tax) to RMB 0.991 (approximately $0.155, including tax). But the bid price was much lower than some of the solar industry participants expected as RMB 1.1 (approximately $ 0.172, including tax) thus it discouraged energy power companies and private solar equipment suppliers’ investment enthusiasm.

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12th Five-Year Plan, China, feed-in tariff, grid-access, NDRC, solar power, solar radiation, Township Electrification Program, wind energy

Reports indicate that China is about to raise its 2015 goal for solar photovoltaic (PV) power to 10 gigawatts (GW), confirming an anonymous report that was leaked earlier this year. The target was originally set at 5 GW in the 12th Five-Year Plan released in March but has since been doubled in the newly submitted Development Plan for Renewable Energy during the 12th Five-Year Period, a document submitted to the State Council at the beginning of this month.

China aims to be a global giant on solar power

It might appear that this doubling is a direct reaction to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, and that China may follow Germany’s steps in halting nuclear energy development. But that isn’t likely to happen. Although the Chinese government did issue an urgent safety review of domestic nuclear power plants, especially those in the construction and planning stages, there has been no official decision to stop or even slow China’s nuclear development. Rather, according to the latest statement from the Director-General of the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), the country will continue to grow its nuclear power industry.

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12th Five-Year Plan, 2015 target, China, electricity grid, energy intensity, renewable energy, solar power, transimission

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) recently released its latest energy outlook, which highlights the progress made in 2010 and foresees a busy 2011. While development of new and renewable energy sources is the focus of China’s long-term energy plan, the Chinese government is still struggling to figure out exactly how fast those sectors should grow. Learning from previous experiences, China’s top decision makers are taking a more practical – and in our opinion, more rational – approach to creating a low-carbon economy. 

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12th Five-Year Plan, carbon intensity, China, Chinese Electricity Council, energy intensity, energy outlook, grid infrastructure, National Energy Administration, non-fossil fuels, renewable energy, ultra high voltage, wind power

 By Haibing Ma  

China recently announced that it achieved its national goal for energy savings as outlined in the 11th Five-Year Plan of 2006–2010. But the real test of this success is just beginning. The country is about to release its next five-year plan for economic development and will need to delegate responsibility for achieving the next set of nationwide energy and emissions targets at the provincial and local levels.  

On January 6, Zhang Ping, Director-General of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s macroeconomic planning body, announced that the country “basically” met its goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP (i.e., energy intensity) by 20 percent by the end of 2010. This is the first time that a top Chinese official has claimed such success, although the exact level of energy savings has yet to be disclosed.  

But what about targets for the period past 2010? Zhang made his announcement during the first day of a two-day National Energy Administration meeting to outline key energy-related tasks for 2011. Yet the meeting didn’t reveal any detailed targets for China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011–15), instead providing basic guiding principles such as promoting clean and efficient use of fossil fuels, expediting the development of new and renewable energy sources, and optimizing regional energy projects.  

The new goals won’t be a secret for much longer. In early March, the annual assembly of the National People’s Congress will be held in Beijing. This yearly meeting of China’s highest organ of state power is the birthplace of the nation’s all-important policies. It is bound to attract significant worldwide attention this year because representatives from all around China will be gathering to review and then release the country’s next five-year plan for economic and social development.  

Of the numerous grand goals to be set in the 12th Five-Year Plan, the two figures that concern the international climate community the most are a new energy-intensity target and a first-time-ever target for reducing China’s carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP (i.e., carbon intensity). Although previous reports indicated that the nation’s new energy-intensity reduction target might be 17.3 percent, recent media coverage of the draft 12th Five-Year Plan hints at a 16-percent reduction (from the 2010 baseline) for both energy and carbon intensity. But these figures are still subject to change between now and March.  

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11th Five-Year Plan, 12th Five-Year Plan, Cancun, China, Climate Change, COP-16, emissions reductions, energy efficiency, energy intensity, green economy, Guangdong, Inner Mongolia, renewable energy, Shanxi, target