China seeks to expand green energy ties

China and the European Union will expand collaboration in the alternative energy sector to achieve shared objectives in terms of energy conservation and emissions reduction, officials said.

The two sides will further cooperate in nuclear technologies, including uranium enrichment and experimental fast reactors, and they will jointly develop new-energy vehicles, said Xu Xianping, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Cooperation in the development of green technology is another area that can draw China and Europe closer together, said Han Wenke, director-general of the Energy Research Institute, under the National Development and Reform Commission.

EU countries have technological advantages. France is at the forefront of nuclear technologies, while Denmark is strong in wind power, and Germany excels in solar energy.

China’s drive to achieve environmentally sustainable growth will mean these technologies have a market for years to come.

“Over the past five years, China has led the world in the rate at which it has installed new clean energy generating capacity,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the clean energy program for the Pew Charitable Trusts, a Washington-based research group.

A recent Pew report said China’s investment in clean energy totaled $45.5 billion in 2011, which meant it fell behind the United States for the first time since 2009.

“While China’s growth may have been flat in 2011, it remains a formidable contender in the global clean energy race, leading the world in the production of wind turbines and solar modules,” Cuttino said.

Furthermore, she said China has maintained strong national clean energy goals that ensure high levels of investment for the foreseeable future. The country has deployed an impressive amount of clean energy infrastructure.

China aims to increase the proportion of non-fossil fuels to 15 percent of primary energy consumption by 2020, and technology is the key to realizing the potential of China’s clean energy market, she said.

China and the European Union have complementary roles, said Zhang Min, head of the department of science and technology policy studies under the Institute of European Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

EU countries have core technologies and research funding, while China has a huge market and plentiful resources. These elements form a solid basis for cooperation, Zhang said.

“But there are problems that need to be addressed - such as the slow pace of technology transfer - that hinder the effectiveness of new energy cooperation,” Zhang said.

Overcapacity is another issue facing China’s emerging green energy industry, Zhang said.

Taking advantage of preferential policies, a large number of Chinese companies have entered the clean energy market, leading to a surplus in the green energy equipment industry in China.

Furthermore, many domestic alternative energy companies are largely assembly plants and lack a competitive advantage in clean energy technology.

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