Sunday, May 8, 2011

China is #2 Cleantech Producer, U.S. #17, New Report Finds

China is #2 Cleantech Producer, U.S. #17, New Report Finds: "

“Denmark earns the biggest share of its national revenue from producing windmills and other clean technologies, the United States is rapidly expanding its clean-tech sector, but no country can match China’s pace of growth, according to a new report obtained by The Associated Press,” the AP reported today.

“China’s production of green technologies has grown by a remarkable 77 per cent a year, according to the report, which was commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and which will be unveiled on Monday at an industry conference in Amsterdam.”

The key findings and conclusions of the report, which compared cleantech production of 38 countries to GDP, are as follows:

  • Denmark leads the world in the percentage of its GDP that comes from cleantech production (3.1%)

  • China is 2nd at 1.4%, Germany 3rd, Brazil 4th, and the U.S. 17th (at 0.3%).

  • Obama’s cleantech policies have helped the U.S. and the U.S. cleantech industry has been growing 28%/year since 2008.

  • China’s growth in cleantech production is incomparable, however, and is clearly going to make China the cleantech world leader barring any radical, unexpected changes.

  • China’s cleantech growth is based in a clear understanding of the threats the world (and it) is facing as a result of climate change as well as an understanding that the cleantech industry is a growth driver that will help it tremendously in its economic ascent.

  • In flat dollar terms (not percentage of GDP), China is currently the world leader in cleantech production, bringing in $64 billion a year from it and the U.S. brings on $45 billion.

The Chinese have made, on the political level, a conscious decision to capture this market and to develop this market aggressively,” said Donald Pols, an economist with the WWF.

“When you speak to the Chinese, climate change is not an ideological issue. It’s just a fact of life. While we debate climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy, the debate is passed in China,” Pols said. “For them it’s implementation. It’s a growth sector, and they want to capture this sector.”

The report was actually completed by Germany-based Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. “It gathered data on 38 countries from energy associations, bank and brokerage reports, investor presentations, the International Energy Agency and a score of other sources. It measured the earnings from producing renewables like biofuels, wind turbines and thermal equipment, and energy efficiency technology such as low-energy lighting and insulation.”

While China’s cleantech industry was focused on exports for awhile, it is now producing more and more for domestic use as well.

Surprising Findings on China’s Projected Energy Consumption

This report above follows another recent report out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) that found that, counter to conventional wisdom, China’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions will hit a plateau long before the middle of the century, even with its population probably surpassing 1.4 billion.

The report, China’s Energy and Carbon Emissions Outlook to 2050, found that China’s steeply rising energy consumption will start to level off between 2030 and 2035.

“Once nearly every household owns a refrigerator, a washing machine, air conditioners and other appliances, and once housing area per capita has stabilized, per household electricity growth will slow,” report co-author Mark Levine explained. It will reach a certain saturation point.

And some critical industries will taper off even sooner. “China will reach saturation in road and rail construction before the 2030-2035 time frame, resulting in very large decreases in iron and steel demand. Additionally, other energy-intensive industries will see demand for their products flatten.”

Unprecedented Detail in this Analysis

Accurate projections are hard to make, for sure. But this analysis apparently went far beyond any non-China analysis to date and went into great depth on the matter.

Key to the new findings is a deeper look at patterns of in China: a “bottom-up” modeling system that develops projections of energy use in far greater detail than standard methods and which is much more time- and labor-intensive to undertake. Work on the project has been ongoing for the last four years. “Other studies don’t have this kind of detail,” says Levine. “There’s no model outside of China that even comes close to having this kind of information, such as our data on housing stock and appliances.”

The bottom line: China’s economic growth is resulting in more energy consumption and global warming emissions, but it’s strong focus on clean energy and natural societal patterns will make China’s impact on global warming less significant than many have been projecting. Of course, no projections are perfect, and we (and the Chinese) have decisions to make everyday that can change the course of history.

And let’s not forget on this Mother’s Day that Mother Nature has a part to play as well and can change the course of history, itself.

Photo Credit: adapted version of CC-BY-NC photo by Magalie L’AbbĂ©


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