coalpowerplant.jpgEngagingChina has often wondered why more western businesses aren't rushing to help with one of China's most pressing problems, namely, creating a more environmental sustainable economy.

One that has seen the light is Siemens, which expects growing interest in cleaner forms of transport and energy technologies will double its China sales by 2010– currently they are roughly €5bn.

The German giant takes comfort from the recent 2007 session of the People's Congress in which energy conservation and environmental conservation were flagged as “priority issues”.

China's growing need for energy – experts predict annual increases of up to 20% by 2020 – makes action imperative, since China currently obtains some 70% of its energy from coal. It burns 2.1bn tons of coal a year, more than the US, the EU and Japan put together, and is destined to overtake the US as the world's largest producer of CO2 as early as 2009, according to the International Energy Authority.

Renewable energy fans want China to drastically reduce that heavy dependence on coal, but pragmatists prefer to see coal as part of the solution. China has huge coal reserves, and like it or not, coal is going to continue to be mined extensively. What is needed is a cleaner way to burn the coal, argues Siemens.

The argument is a bit disingenuous as Siemens is best known for its strengths in conventional power generation equipment than in renewables. Nevertheless, Siemens gives the example of the Waigaoqiao II coal-fired power plant it has installed in Shanghai. Thanks to advanced power plant technology based on so-called supercritical steam parameters, Siemens says Waigaoqiao II is cutting CO2 emissions by 2.1m tons a year.

Efficient power distribution is another area where Siemens argues that the latest technology can make a big difference. It gives the example of Chongqing, the new “super city” taking shape in the west. Siemens has been contracted to provide efficient power distribution for Chongqing. That's important because Chongqing is a long way from where the power gets generated. More on the new mega-city in this story.

Siemens also boasts of the greater efficiency offered by its intelligent building systems and its transportation technology, currently being used in two new Beijing subway lines and a high-speed train link between Beijing and Tianjin, which aims to be ready in time for the 2008 Olympics.

Elsewhere on the environmental front:

  • China is unlikely to meet ($) its target to improve its energy efficiency by 2010, according to the Financial Times. Energy efficiency only increased by about 1% in 2006, missing the target of 4%. China made big gains in energy efficiency in past decades but a surge of spending on new steel, aluminium, chemical and cement plants and the like from about 2001 has begun to reverse those gains. Nonetheless, China plans to stick to its five-year target of curbing energy consumption by 20% per unit of GDP and cutting emissions by 10% by 2010.

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