Wind and solar in China

Green growth through wind and solar

After a boom in China, installing more wind and solar farms than anywhere else, China is reducing the pace of growth in an industry that has helped lower the costs of green energy worldwide.
There is a need to consolidate the industry, clean out the weaklings and improve the grid. Overall China will forge ahead.
See the original and complete article:
China to Slow Green Growth for First Time After Record Boom – 23 September 2016

A slowdown

Installations of new wind and solar farms are expected to drop 11% in 2017 from a record high in 2016.
China’s electricity demand is stagnating along with a pause in the nation’s economic expansion. The government has started re-calibrating subsidies for the business, a move that’s likely to hit the industry’s leading manufacturers, Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. and Trina Solar Ltd.
China has been the single largest developer of the technology for eight years. Its demand for panels and turbines has pushed manufacturers to build factories throughout Asia, and the scale of its projects helped bring down the cost of electricity from low-polluting sources everywhere.
China’s wind and solar capacity will grow 41.8 GW in 2017, down from a record 46.9 GW in 2016.
I also believe that In the long run, there is no question where China is headed: China is committed to a low-carbon future.

Consolidation in wind and solar

Based largely in China, the solar manufacturing industry, has been opening new factories in Asia and elsewhere. Now the market is bracing for a glut, pressuring companies to cut prices and often leading to a merciless cut-out-the-weakest.
China needs to digest the wind and solar plants and connect those properly to the grid. A large percentage of the generated power is lost as the grid cannot or does not want to absorb it.

There is a new trend few have noticed in China: the government is now heavily promoting both wind and especially solar farms that are able to deliver 24/24 with storage capacities. That will be the technology of the future. I know some manufacturers of thermal solar who are doing brisk business as they deliver solar plants with storage, producing power in a more grid-friendly way.
The grid problems experienced in China are also becoming an issue in some European countries.

China and USA wind and solar

See here some interesting tables from Bloomberg:

Once again, those who criticize China on its generation modes should have a better look.

Repair cafes gaining popularity

Repair Cafes (aka Repair Cafés) are?

In my book Toxic Capitalism I talk about them, an initiative I love because it exactly promotes my point: to be a better consumer, waste less and help the environment. It started in Holland.
They are public events where people in the neighborhood get together, typically once a month, to repair your stuff. Another aspect: people connect socially in their neighborhood!
That can be about anything, like mending socks, giving the coach a second life, getting your toaster back to life and so on.

Repair Cafes multiply in Belgium

In one years the number of Repair Cafes has grown from around hundred to now 225, they pop up everywhere. Presently there are 135 in Flanders and 90 in Brussels and Wallonia.
Interesting to see the details in the original article, like the fact 20% of the visitors become “repairmen” themselves.
I have my own repair station in my Beijing home…
See here the article in Dutch:

22/09/16 – Repair Cafes zitten in de lift (edited)

Repair Cafés hebben de wind in de zeilen in België. Op één jaar tijd is hun aantal verdubbeld, van een honderdtal eind 2015 naar 225 nu.
Na het succes van het eerste Repair Café in Antwerpen, duiken overal in Brussel en Vlaanderen nieuwe Repair Cafés op.
Repair Cafés zijn gratis, voor iedereen toegankelijke bijeenkomsten, waarbij buurtgenoten elkaar, over het algemeen één keer per maand, helpen bij het herstellen van allerhande voorwerpen.
Volgens de statistieken wordt 70% van de voorwerpen die in een Repair Café worden binnengebracht, hersteld. Bij 15% is een nieuw stuk nodig, en 15% belandt in centra waar de voorwerpen uit mekaar worden gehaald. Twintig procent van de bezoekers van een Repair Café wordt zelf hersteller.

Half of all US food produce is thrown away

Food waste is worldwide problem

Here the focus of food waste is on the USA but I see this still being a problem in other Western countries.

When visiting the U.S. and Europe I often witness how consumers simply buy too much, stuff it in the fridge, use a little and then shamelessly throw away because it is “past date”. Or they prepare the food and throw away many parts that could be used. The excuse is, too old, cheap anyway (it was in promotion!), and “what’s your problem?”
I am shocked because the way I was brought up is “to never waste food”.
However the problem is more serious because before the food really arrives at the consumer, mountains were wasted due to poor storage, the fickle attitude of the big chains, the whole system.
Happily we see a trend where some shops now sell separately the “ugly produce”, or find a channel to unload the unused or “too old” produce (e.g. to charity or recycling).
The issue is also discussed in my book Toxic Capitalism.

So what are YOU doing about it?

See the full article here, dated 13 July 2016, highly recommended:
The Guardian article

Some main lines:

– Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat because of a “cult of perfection”, deepening hunger and poverty, and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment. Vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the US are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock or hauled directly from the field to landfill, because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards.

– Food waste is often described as a “farm-to-fork” problem. By one government tally, about 60m tons of produce worth about $160bn, is wasted by retailers and consumers every year – one third of all foodstuffs.

– Scarred vegetables regularly abandoned in the field to save the expense and labor involved in harvest. Or left to rot in a warehouse because of minor blemishes that do not necessarily affect freshness or quality. When added to the retail waste, it takes the amount of food lost close to half of all produce grown, experts say.

– Some supermarket chains and industry groups in the US are pioneering ugly produce sections and actively campaigning to reduce such losses. But a number of producers and distributors claimed that some retailing giants were still using their power to reject produce on the basis of some ideal of perfection, and sometimes because of market conditions.

China sets pace for green energy

The China Daily article: “China sets pace for green energy” gives a better image of what China is doing. Dated 11 July 2016.
China Daily article

See here the main points:

China has cut coal consumption by 1.57 billion metric tons from 2010 to 2015 to reduce carbon emissions by 3.6 billion tons. And it has shown a commitment to green energy by becoming the largest country with renewable power capacity in 2015.

An estimated 147 GW of renewable power capacity was added worldwide in 2015, the largest annual increase ever, the annual Global Status Report on Renewables 2016 said.
Among the global players, China has been especially active. It leads the list of 148 countries covered in the report, with the largest renewable power capacity by 2015, according to the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy.
With the increasing investment on solar, wind and hydropower, China will see a larger growth of nonfossil fuels, “with a high possibility to exceed the set targets of 15% by 2020,” said Li Junfeng of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Nonfossil fuels accounted for 12% of China’s primary energy mix in 2015, growing from 7.4% in 2005, and it’s expected to account for 20% by 2030, said Xie Zhenhua, China’s chief climate negotiator and former deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission.
“In 2015, China saw its GDP hit 67.7 trillion yuan ($10.1 trillion), 148% above 2005, but the carbon dioxide emission per unit of GDP has been reduced by 38% compared with 2005; China is committed to reducing carbon intensity 60-65% by 2030, and aims to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions earlier than the deadline of 2030”, Xie said.

Greener Beijing, there is some hope

The number of cars is increasing in China. Figures published in July 2016: In China the total number of cars now 184 million, with 135 million private cars. Driving license total 296 million. Beijing: 5.44 million cars.

Rumors go around of more traffic restrictions in Beijing as well as road fees to enter the center of the city (“congestion fees”). Another much more controversial plan – being carried out – is to simply lower the city population by making life difficult and expensive for migrants. In my opinion, unsustainable as it is chasing away all the people providing services.

China Daily on 3 September 2016 published the following data on Beijing, see:


Some of the figures:
– 2015 population 21.71 million
– 2015 registered vehicles: 5.62 million (notice, as usual, the difference with the figure above!)
– metro lines: 2015 554 Km – 2020 1,000 Km
– evolution of PM2.5 and “good air days”

In July China Daily also published the sources of PM2.5 in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei:


That is in line with my assessment that pollution in Beijing is roughly: one third cars / one third local industry / one third coming from the outside.
Coordination between areas has grown into a major issue in the fight against air pollution, especially in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
Beijing has set an air pollution reduction target for PM2.5 at 60 micrograms per cubic meter by 2017. The city averaged 80.9 micrograms in 2015, suggesting the target will be hard to reach.
See the full article here:
12 July 2016 – Lots of bad air blows in from elsewhere
China Daily article

Beijing now has 68,000 public bicycles, and some new models. The city has also launched an app to provide real-time location data, nearby rental stations, number of available bikes etc. The rental bikes were launched in 2012 and I see more and more on the road.

Coal burning in China: deadly

See the original article for more details. Do note the study was done by a famous university in Beijing, not some foreign group.

Coal Burning Causes the Most Air Pollution Deaths in China, Study Finds

Burning coal has the worst health impact of any source of air pollution in China and caused 366,000 premature deaths in 2013, Chinese and American researchers said on Thursday.
Coal is responsible for about 40% of the deadly fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5 in China’s atmosphere, according to a study the researchers released in Beijing.
The study, which was peer-reviewed, grew out of a collaboration between Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s top research universities, and the Health Effects Institute, based in Boston, a research center that receives funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the worldwide motor vehicle industry. The researchers’ primary aim was to identify the main sources of air pollution leading to premature deaths in China.

Some more highlights of the article:

– 155,000 deaths in 2013 related to ambient PM 2.5 to industrial coal burning, and 86,500 deaths to coal burning at power plants;
– Fuel combustion of both coal and biomass in households was another major cause of disease that year, resulting in 177,000 deaths;
– Transportation was a major cause of mortality related to PM 2.5, with 137,000 deaths attributed to it in 2013.
– China consumes almost as much coal annually as all other countries combined, and coal burning in the country is the biggest source of both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, the leading cause of climate change.
– Growth in China’s coal consumption has begun to slow.
– “Despite air pollution reductions, the overall health burden is expected to increase by 2030 as the population ages and becomes more susceptible to diseases most closely linked to air pollution.”
– Even under the most stringent policies on coal use and energy efficiency, coal is expected to remain the single biggest contributor to PM 2.5 and China’s health burden in 2030.
– Global Burden of Disease study examined deaths in 2013, which estimated that PM 2.5 contributed to 2.9 million premature deaths worldwide, with 64% of those in China. It estimated the number of premature deaths in China in 2013 related to PM 2.5 exposure at 916,000, out of a population of 1.4 billion.
– Researchers found that outdoor air pollution was the fifth leading cause of premature deaths in China, behind high blood pressure, smoking, high consumption of sodium and low consumption of fruit. Household air pollution was the sixth leading cause.
– In 2013, the OECD warned that “urban air pollution is set to become the top environmental cause of mortality worldwide by 2050, ahead of dirty water and lack of sanitation.” It said that as many as 3.6 million people could end up dying prematurely from air pollution each year, mostly in China and India.

Those issues were also covered in my book. Interesting updates… and scary…


Green Growth, Smart Growth

On 30 August 2016 we had as guest speaker in our Beijing Rotary Club Mr. Ralf Fücks, with the topic: “Green Growth, Smart Growth – A New Approach to Economics, Innovation and the Environment”.

The background (or call it teaser) was to be as follows:
How can we change the patterns of economic growth away from growing at the expense of ecosystems to a new paradigm based on growth with nature? We are living in an age of economic growth which has helped countries and societies to develop and to become more prosperous. Yet, the old model of growth based on fossil energies has proved to be environmentally destructive and is reaching its natural limits. Climate change, air pollution, massive losses of fertile soil and increasing water crisis in large parts of the world indicate an urgent need for action if we don’t want to jeopardize the livelihoods of future generations.
This is why a fundamental change is needed: A new paradigm based on growth with nature and not against it. Decoupling economic growth from an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the exploitation of limited natural resources has to be a first important step. Establishing new indicators for measuring prosperity as well as changing our consumption patterns are equally important. This is a global challenge. Solutions have to be global too, involving a plurality of actors that range from politics and sciences to private business and civil society.

In his speech, Mr. Ralf Fuecks, Co-President of Heinrich-Boell-Foundation, and author of the book “Green Growth, Smart Growth” elaborated why this is not only an ambitious goal, but also how it could be achieved.

Well, let me be a bit disappointed for two main reasons:
First of all I failed to understand what real solutions he is proposing, except for the obvious. So, I learned nothing new.
Secondly I look at how the “public” reacts in awe to the whole speech as if “finally” they got the important message. Oh well seems most never read my book (or did not get the message). And yes, I propose solutions in my book. Like we say in Belgium (and I guess in other countries): “You are never a prophet in your own country”. Seems that applies to our little circle too, so I never had to give a talk. Yeah I know, I grumble a bit…

The pictures of the lunch are here:

Green Growth, Smart Growth

The West still closes an eye on slave work

See: “The true cost of your cheap clothes: slave wages for Bangladesh factory workers” (11 June 2016)

“Everyone loves a bargain but the true cost of that latest wardrobe addition is pitiful wages for Bangladesh’s legion of factory workers”.

My comment posted on SCMP:
Sad reality and the hypocrisy of the West. In my book “Toxic Capitalism” I denounce the excesses of consumerism, driven by too cheap prices of goods. Consumers don’t want to know how the garments were made (as shown here), or how leather belts and jewelry are made in countries like China (toxic fumes and dust). They only want cheap cheap. The consumer is weak, complains but in the end only goes for the lowest price. Then they attack countries like China, Bangladesh and others for workers’ rights and pollution.

More sports for the old – and the young

“Sport for all: China’s plan to cope with ageing society”
See the article 24 June 2016 in SCMP:

“It is a shift in mindset as encouraging exercise is seen not only as a route to Olympic glory, but to a healthier and economically more productive nation.”
Not only seniors need more exercise, the young people are becoming more and more obese (and with bad eyesight).
Still sports are not so popular as parents do not encourage their kids to participate: they should just keep to studies, 7/7. As a result sports such as soccer, rugby and other fail to take off. Just pumping money in soccer is not enough.
Seniors are actually often exemplary as they do exercise on the streets and I see grannies coming back on their bikes, loaded with vegetables bought on the market.
I normally only use bicycle (or subway) in Beijing but as I have said publicly, riding a bike is tough with the traffic chaos and the total lack of enforcement of traffic rules, a sad joke.

See my comment on SCMP:
First China needs to change its typical “face problem” and jump on a bike or walk instead of taking the car. I am told it is “loss of face” to go to an important meeting on a bike, or to visit a 5-star hotel. I ignore it completely but most Chinese have this (stupid) issue, while even ministers in Europe use a bike. Then obviously we also need traffic police in a city like Beijing, to enforce the traffic rules. Now they are non-existent and totally useless. On the other hand hold up a protest sign and in 10 sec ten security people jump on you.

At the same time, while schools are trying to promote sports, there are wide-spread reports of toxic running tracks and fake grass making children sick, as reported also in the mainland media. In China anything goes to make quick money and purchasing methods are often riddled with shady deals and total lack of oversight. As I always say, don’t mess with kids because Chinese parents cherish their children and become ferocious if one tries to harm them.

See more about this:
“China halts construction of synthetic running tracks in schools after report alleges some were made using industrial waste”

Children have also fallen sick, with tests confirming some tracks and playgrounds contain high-levels of noxious chemicals.
And, in China Daily 23 June 2016:
“School’s artificial grass found to be highly toxic”.
“Kindergarten sued over running tracks”.