Commerce Sec’y Discusses US, China Energy Technology Race

by | May 24, 2010

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The U.S. could find itself falling behind China in the race to develop green energy technologies, according to comments made by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Saturday. Locke was quoted in a Reuters article during his trade mission to China, during which he was joined by 24 U.S. green energy companies.

In his prepared remarks, Locke highlighted the need for China and the U.S. to jointly lead the world in developing green energy technology. But many American companies are hesitant to make large investments due to a lack of coherent policy, while countries like China and Germany are surging ahead, he said.

Locke’s comments were echoed by Florida Power and Light CEO Lew Hay III in an opinion piece published in The Lake Wales News on Saturday. Hay pointed out that China produced more wind turbines than the U.S. last year, and became the world’s largest producers of solar panels the year before that.

Hay cited causes such as the lack of a carbon tax, renewable energy standards, and sufficient energy transmission infrastructure as being behind the nation’s decline in green energy innovation.

China, meanwhile, could introduce a carbon tax as early as 2012. And China’s national assembly adopted a  law late last year that requires electricity grid companies to buy all the power produced by renewable energy sources, or face a fine.

China has moved steadily up the ranking most attractive global locations to invest in renewable energy projects, according to Ernst & Young’s latest global renewable energy country attractiveness indices – from number four in 2008 and number six in 2007. China, which is ranked just behind the U.S., has moved ahead of Germany for the first time in the reports’ six-year history due to its increased commitments to reduce emissions through its carbon intensity reduction plans, according to the study. Last year, China announced the Golden Sun subsidy scheme that will support 500 megawatts (MW) of PV installations over the next two to three years, along with four other major solar projects that deliver 1.8 GW of installed capacity, according to the report.

At 13,000 megawatts of new wind energy installed, China led all nations in adding wind turbines in 2009.

China is slated to spend about $7.3 billion in 2010, more than any other country on smart grid technology.

China is also expanding its nuclear power generation capabilities.

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