As I discussed in a previous blog, renewable energy trade disputes are becoming a particularly contentious issue between many nations. The United States and China are facing off in one of the most publicized of these disagreements. Further action was taken last week as the U.S. Department of Commerce made its second ruling of the year on this issue, placing tariffs on solar photovoltaic (PV) imports from China.

A Suntech Power Holdings employee at a Chinese solar PV manufacturing facility. The Commerce Department ruling placed a 31.22% tariff on Suntech products. (source: China Daily)

The previous Department of Commerce ruling from March 2012 placed countervailing duties on solar PV imports in order to balance what the department determined to be illegal subsidies to solar PV manufacturers from the Chinese government. The initial tariff rates, which were set between 2.9 and 4.73 percent, came in much lower than what was expected by most experts.

The new preliminary ruling comes in response to the second set of claims by the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) that Chinese solar companies have been dumping their products in the U.S. market at below market value. The coalition, led by SolarWorld USA, looks to level the playing field for U.S. solar manufacturers against what they see as artificially cheap imports coming from China.

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China, energy, energy policy, green economy, green jobs, Green Technology, Innovation, renewable energy, solar power, United States

With the continued advancements in the development of renewable energy technologies and their ever-increasing cost competitiveness, there is more and more money at stake for countries and companies alike. A number of countries have recently found themselves at odds with one another over the international impact of certain domestic financial support policies for promoting renewables. The United States, China, Japan, Canada, and the European Union, discussed here, along with many others, currently find themselves on varying sides of major international trade disputes on this topic. High-end manufacturing of renewable energy technology components, and the money and jobs this brings with it, is becoming an increasingly important component for policymakers and an increasingly contentious issue at the international level.

A worker assembling solar PV panels in a Suntech Power Holdings Co. factory in Jiangsu Province, China. (Source: Bloomberg)

The dispute between the United States and China over solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing is probably today’s most high-profile renewable energy trade dispute. The Chinese share of global solar PV manufacturing has grown at an incredibly fast pace since the country entered the market, as Chinese manufacturers have rapidly expanded from a 15 percent market share in 2006 to provide nearly half of the world’s total solar PV manufacturing output today. As of 2008 China produced 2,500 megawatts (MW) of solar cells, up from just 4 MW a decade earlier, as reported in the Worldwatch-REEEP report Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in China. With an existing installed capacity of 900 MW at the end of 2010, much of this production is being slated for export.

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China, energy policy, European Union, feed-in tariffs, green jobs, renewable energy, subsidies, United States

By Haibing Ma and Danielle Nierenberg

The new Worldwatch report explores China's green potentials

China’s environmental problems remain a cause for global concern as climate change continues to reduce agricultural production and create instability in world food prices, according to The Worldwatch Institute’s report Green Economy and Green Jobs in China: Current Status and Potentials for 2020. The report was co-authored with a research team at the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies led by Dr. Pan Jiahua. It cites alarming facts about the status of China’s environmental stability, including the placement of seven Chinese cities on a list of the top ten most polluted places on earth. “In 2005, water in 59 percent of rivers was undrinkable, along with 70 percent of water reserves and inland lakes, and one quarter of all aquifers polluted with more than half of urban aquifers heavily polluted,”  according to the report.

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China, ecoagriculture, food security, green economy, green jobs, sustainable agriculture, the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies, urban farming forestry, urban planning, water security

The Dominican Republic ismaking strides in promoting renewable energy as a way to reduce its heavy dependence on imported fossil fuels. As part of our work collaborating with government and private stakeholders to develop low-carbon energy roadmaps for the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries, the Worldwatch Institute is conducting socioeconomic impact assessments for planned and potential renewable energy projects, focusing on solar and wind for the current stage of the analysis. The Dominican Republic has several solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power projects lined up, and the renewable resource potential to significantly expand on these investments. Examining the job creation potential of these renewable energy projects is an important first step toward understanding the full scope of benefits that renewable energy can provide, especially with high levels of unemployment in the Dominican Republic – 14.2 percent in 2010.

Source: osha.gov

A worker installs solar PV rooftop panels.

Despite a rapidly growing economy (7.8 percent GDP growth in 2010), about half of the Dominican population lives below the poverty line. One reason that economic growth has failed to translate fully into widespread socioeconomic benefits is the Dominican Republic’s dependence on fossil fuel imports. The Dominican economy is highly susceptible to oil price shocks, with oil imports accounting for 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010, down from 9 percent during the global price spike in 2008. Domestic renewable generation can reduce economic vulnerability due to reliance on fossil fuel imports, but can it create enough jobs to tackle the country’s unemployment and improve the standard of living?

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Caribbean renewable energy, Dominican Republic, green jobs, Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap, solar PV, wind power

President Obama announced last week that automakers must enhance the future performance of their cars and light trucks if they want to continue selling in the United States. The fleets for Model Years 2017 through 2025 will need to meet a combined highway/city performance equivalent to 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) and 163 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per mile according to EPA test procedures. The new standard extends one established in 2009 that requires a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) of 35.5 mpg and 250 grams of CO2 per mile by Model Year 2016. For passenger vehicles, the standards increase by an average of five percent annually from 2017 through 2025.

The CAFE requirement includes a flexibility mechanism that provides credits allowing automakers to reduce their fleet-wide efficiency performance by designing a variety of systems including efficient air conditioning, flex fuel engines, and compressed natural gas treatment. These ‘accounting tricks’ combined with the possibility of a slight rebound effect in driving behavior may undermine fuel efficiency improvements. Meeting the higher fuel economy standards may not be so far out of reach for automakers even without flexible crediting, considering the efficiency levels achieved by cars on the road today, such as the Toyota Prius, which gets 50 mpg. Nonetheless, the new standard is leaps and bounds beyond the 27 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard for passenger cars that had been in place since 1985.

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emissions reductions, energy efficiency, energy security, European Union, fuel economy, green jobs, low-carbon, manufacturing jobs, transportation, United States

Metros with clusters across the United States

There are 2.7 million clean economy jobs in the United States, according to a recently released report by the Brookings Institution entitled “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment.” Brookings hosted an event to announce the release, at which one panel explored the fascinating and increasingly important role that Regional Innovation Clusters (RICs) play in fostering the clean economy.

The report shows that the majority of green jobs (defined as jobs with a direct or indirect environmental benefit) are in conventional sectors like manufacturing, waste management, and mass transit. But the fastest growing sector is clean technology, which includes renewable energy, smart grid, and energy efficiency. While 64 percent of green jobs in the U.S. reside within the 100 largest metropolitan areas (which hold 66 percent of the U.S. population), the same metros hold an outsized 74 percent of the clean tech jobs created from 2003 to 2010. The Brookings report takes this as evidence that metros have strong industry clusters that boost clean economy growth.

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brookings, clean economy, cleantech, clusters, economic development, emissions reductions, energy, energy efficiency, finance, green economy, green jobs, Green Technology, Innovation, low-carbon, nortech, Obama, regional innovation clusters, renewable energy, renewable energy finance, sustainable, technology series, United States

In a previous post, we discussed the general challenges posed by China’s statistical system. Despite these challenges, the Chinese government has started making a serious effort to establish a credible data infrastructure. Before such a transparent and reliable statistical system becomes fully functional, any research involving Chinese data will not be easy. This is especially the case for new topics like green economy.

Improvement in basic statistics, such as employment data, could help stimulate growth of China's green sectors

This July, Worldwatch will be releasing a new report titled “Green Economy and Green Jobs in China: Current Status and Potentials for 2020,” the first output of a project sponsored by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Given limitations on green economy data, we had to think creatively to come up with reliable estimations. Although the mixture of methodologies we developed can be improved as better data become available, our report represents the most in-depth sector-based study so far on the job creation potential of China’s green economy.

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China, data availability, data reliability, Green Buildings, green economy, green jobs, green sectors, input-output model, renewable energy, solar PV, statistical system, sustainable development, wind power

By Haibing Ma and Jiajing Bi

China is the World's No.1 wind power

As China accelerates its shift to a green economy, it is becoming a frontrunner in the clean energy field. In 2009, the country overtook the United States to become the global leader in clean energy investment, and in 2010 this Chinese investment reached US$54.4 billion, dwarfing the $34 billion from the U.S. With such impressive finance and investment, it’s no wonder that China’s clean energy sector has been growing so rapidly. By the end of 2010, China had installed a total of 44.7 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity, surpassing the United States to become the world’s biggest wind power market. And China has been the world’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) producer since 2008, with an annual production capacity of 20 GW at the end of 2010.

Chinese manufacturers of clean energy equipment account for more than half of the global supply. Even more impressive is the pace of growth in renewable energy: as recently as 2005, only about 1 GW of wind power capacity was installed across China, and solar cell production was less than 500 megawatts (MW).

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China, clean energy, Climate Change, emission reduction, green economy, green jobs, manufacturing, renewables, solar, solar PV, sustainable development, wind, wind turbine

By Hans Kordik, Counselor for Agriculture and Environment, Austrian Embassy

The call for energy independence has been on the political agenda across the globe for many decades. While most countries share a growing energy demand, their reasons for looking to reduce energy dependency as well as their chosen strategies vary significantly.

In the U.S., the desire for energy independence had already emerged during the oil embargo of the early 70’s. Most of the State of the Union addresses since have elaborated on this objective. Just in the last Congress, the advocates of climate legislation defended their proposals not so much as mitigating emissions, but rather as finding a solution to the challenge of energy dependency. Even though all sides talk of energy independence as a worthy goal, since the early 70’s, the share of imported oil has nearly doubled in the United States.

Just like the U.S., Austria depends on energy imports in the form of fossil energy, primarily oil and natural gas. But Austria has been working hard to reduce its dependency. Nowhere is this effort, and its benefits, more evident than in the region of Güssing,

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Austria, biomass, embassy series, energy efficiency, energy security, green jobs, Gussing, municipal solid waste, renewable energy

By Haibing Ma and Jiajing Bi

China used to be the "Kingdom of Bicycles"

China’s transportation sector is undergoing a revolution. As the average wealth of Chinese citizens improves, the country formerly known as the “kingdom of bicycles” is experiencing a swell of motorization. In 2009, China surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest auto producer and market.

At the end of 2009, China was home to 170 million vehicles. Projections indicate that the country could add as many as 220 million new vehicles to its market between now and 2020. Already, the transportation sector accounts for about a fifth of China’s total energy consumption.  

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alterntive fuel vehicles, China, electric car, emission reduction, energy consumption, green economy, green jobs, green transportation, high speed rail, hybird car, metro, subway, urban rail