Friday, June 29, 2012

More from Elle Carberry of the CGTI

One of two co-founders and one of three managing directors of the China Greentech Initiative, Elle Carberry, resides in China to truly keep her finger on the ever changing pulse of country's greentech industry.

Elle weighs in with us on everything from the speculative talk of an economic hard landing in China to their aggressive and successful efforts at creating a Strong and Smart Grid Plan.

As rumors and speculations swirl about the possibility of China experiencing a hard landing, how could that affect the country's efforts and ambitions in the greentech industry? It's a question that has been looming for months. 

"Generally from '09 to now China has been trying to stimulate domestic consumption – and China knew it had to do that—it knows it has to do that—there’s no choice about it—its what you do. Their average GDP per person is growing all the time. China has an emerging middle class where their incomes are going up 10 and 15 percent year over year, so it’s tangible. People have money but people need to spend money and they need to spend it in their own domestic economy," Carberry said.
For China, one of the answers has been to move forward with greentech initiatives. Despite setbacks, maintaining and increasing greentech targets is essential.
"The solar industry in particular has been through a bit of a hit, so they immediately increased the targets for how much solar and wind power it wants to produce in this current five year plan," said Carberry. "It’s already been making adjustments directly through the mandate that says the country will install this many gigawatts of wind and solar and biofuels, that’s the kind of thing that they will continue to do." 
One of China's particularly interesting greentech initiatives is Waste to Energy (WtE) efforts. WtE refers to taking any biofuel/waste and finding ways to harness it for a growing population's energy consumption needs. 

"They started incentivizing wind three or four years ago, and now they’re getting solar to start moving along and they’re just beginning with WtE," said Carberry. "So they’re starting to transition that sector, and they will. The way they do targets is to say that a percent of the energy—a certain percent will be renewable and within renewable, a certain percent will be... But for now this is the first time that there’s really a target for WtE in this current plan." 
With ever growing urban centers and a mass migration from rural areas to cities, China has an unprecedented challenge and opportunity to address the energy needs of its citizens while paving the way for thought leadership in other parts of the world.
"They’ve also put in place targets for things like converting cooking oil. There’s a lot of cooking oil in China that causes a waste problem and can be recycled... The cooking oil is a kind of an automatic thing because it can be easily aggregated in big cities where millions of people are using it," said Carberry. "The food waste thing is that it’s all concentrated. It’s urban centers that have millions of millions of millions of people. And it is a real problem. So they have slightly different incentives for different parts of the waste energy area." 
Another aggressive and bold move China has made has been in their undertaking of a Strong and Smart Grid Plan.

"There was maybe two years of planning, there’s maybe four years of construction, and then there’s some more years of deployment. So it a nearly decade long or ten year long kind of plan that they’re putting in place. And then they do their best to plan these things out, and think these things out—you know it’s a extremely important part of their infrastructure." Carberry said.
China has become a well-known exporter of infrastructure around the world. Building infrastructure in nations in the Middle East and Africa, as well as in China. Particularly important to China's shift from rural to urban living is having a well-planned infrastructure to support the changes over the next several decades. 
 " Infrastructure is something that China does well. And so the build out of this grid is a vital, and hugely important part of infrastructure. Take the electricity that’s largely speaking kind of generated in the central and western part of the country where the coal mines are, and then move it to the east part of the country where the cities are. So this is a vital, vital part of their self-development as a nation and its also vital – because I think you probably realize that a part of what is underlying the need for greater amounts of electricity and a smart strong grid across the whole nation is that there are 400 million people that are going to be urbanized over these 20 years. It’s the largest ever mass migration from rural to urban that has ever happened on the planet," Carberry said. 
The importance of the changing rural to city situation cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to China's approach to building out this grid. 
"All these people who are going to be going to the cities now are going to be using  so much more electricity, and they have to get ready to support that kind of – basically the development of a middle class," said Carberry. "So it just very well planned, it’s not by any means finished but its thought—they’re trying to figure it out step by step and there's a significant amount of investment dollars behind it and this is where the power of a big government that wants something done, can get something done"
 In the end for China's greentech initiatives to be successful it will take a revolutionary approach to how it all the targets and initiatives take shape.  
"It has to be a very organized plan. It has to be well thought out. It has to be very, very, very well-funded and supported and organized by the government," said Carberry. "That’s kind of how you need to do these things."

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