This article is based on a panel discussion at Innovate UK 2013, entitled ‘Clean and Energy Efficient Production – the Chinese Opportunity’. The speakers were Paul Calver of UKTI and Steve Evans, Director of Research and Industrial Sustainability at the University of Cambridge. It originally appeared on the website of Today Translations’ sister company, Energy Translations.
The legacy of China’s industrial revolution of the 1980s has two faces.
On the one hand, it has catapulted the country into becoming the world’s second largest economy, with some expecting it to surpass the United States within the next three to four years. On the other, however, is the cost of damage. In 2005, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimated that the actual cost of China’s pollution was about $122 billion in lost labour, illness and other social problems within communities.
In January 2013, China’s environmental problems were in the spotlight once again, as thick smog – coined by some as “Airmageddon” – shrouded eastern China. This, according to University of Cambridge Director of Research and Industrial Sustainability Steve Evans, was the country’s equivalent of London’s Great Smog of 1952, and spurred has the Communist Party Congress into vigorously pursuing a number of clean energy targets up to 2020.
“One of the most interesting things… was that the Chinese government knocked on the door of the British embassy in Beijing, saying, ‘You’ve been through this before, and had your breakthrough moment in 1952 when you generated the clean air act. How did that work?’” Evans told an audience of sustainable energy engineers and innovators. “For me that is a really interesting signal: They’re coming to this country for knowledge and leadership in this area and it is up to us to grab that opportunity.”
China’s drive for energy efficiency:
According to Paul Calver, a UK Trade Investment specialist in strategic trade for advanced engineering, China’s drive for cleaner and more efficient energy output is based on:
- The need ration and eventually become independent from ever dwindling oil reserves within the country
- Energy security, ie. not being dependent and effected by the rising prices of coal
- Social demand for cleaner environmental policies. According to Calver, 43 per cent of residents in the nine major cities in the Pearl River Delta see water pollution as the most serious confronting them
China has implemented a series of sustainale energy target, which we have written about on this blog before. These also include reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 16 per cent and reducing CO2 emissions by 17 per cent from their 2010 levels. However, what stands out from the list of proposals is the $800 billion investment into research and development in this area alone
The opportunity for British companies:
The final point is key for British companies. According to Calver, the State Council’s investments show that China is “not just looking to get their own industry to be more energy efficient, but are looking to create a clean energy industry to support all other industries.
“Imagine if UK companies could grab one or two per cent of [the $800 billion investment],” said Calver. “I think it would do very well for our economy and also very well for a lot of companies in the UK.”
China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has already produced a list of the necessary machinery and equipment that industry needs to adopt to boost efficiency, although many items on the list are, according to Calver, not in production yet, while UKTI is working with the British government to get UK companies onto the NDRC list.
China’s effort in revamping energy supply and energy efficiency towards cleaner alternatives is one it is taking very seriously, and one for which Britain has already been approached its knowledge and leadership. The message is clear: Such fantastic opportunities do not come along often and now is the time for British energy companies to engage and get involved in what will be one of the greatest ever clean energy investments.
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Image courtesy of Want China Times