China's Renewable Energy Boom
Renewable energy is an increasingly hot topic in China and is a sector targeted for increasing amounts of government attention and investment before 2020. According to Solidiance's analysis, there are 3 key drivers behind the continued interest in this sector : China’s increasing demand for electricity, the need to reduce its reliance on coal for energy production, and the need to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
As the world's highest emitter of greenhouse gasses, China targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 40-45% from 2005 levels by 2020 and increase the use of renewable energies from around 9% of its current total energy mix, to 15% by 2020.
Installations of hydro power continued to rise in the period up to 2011, with China accounting for 22% of the total global installed hydro power capacity. Considerably the most effective renewable energy resource, hydro power sector is dominated by SOEs, although foreign firms are still plausible to invest in the sector regardless their capacity is largely limited due to government's firm control. Nonetheless, challenges such as the long development periods, associated social displacement and environmental concerns as well as the increasing difficulty in accessing potential development sites suggest that China’s investment in hydro power will decline after 2020.
Following years of unregulated growth, China still dominates the global wind energy market with 25% of total global installed wind capacity and is taking the opportunity to mature with the key industry trends that include consolidation and internationalisation. The government regulations and requirements increase, the overheated market begins to consolidate and power grid capabilities take time to catch up to meet the unharnessed production output of current installed capacity with key domestic players finally taking further steps onto the world stage.
China Cumulative and Newly Installed Wind Capacity 2005 - 2011 (Giga Watts)
Challenges lie on the development of the Chinese grid and the continued delays in successful coordination of government bodies in the development of offshore wind. Meanwhile, opportunities exist in the form of internationalisation (for local players), and the application of advanced technology to assist the predictability and grid connectivity of wind power (for foreign players).
China is now the fastest growing solar PV market in the world, with the government targeting total installed capacity to reach 21 GW by 2015 and 50 GW by 2020. However, the industry is overcrowded in which the strong firms suffer from problems of overcapacity, troublesome technological development processes and an international slowdown.
China cumulative and newly installed solar capacity 2005 - 2011 (Giga Watts)
The overcapacity may lead to increased competition and consolidation in the manufacturing market, with the excess components from the value chain being reinstalled domestically, increasing newly installed capacity but limiting opportunities for foreign investment. And according to our analysis, chief opportunities in the Chinese solar PV sector lie on domestic development, new technology R&D, and cost reduction.
Biomass and Biofuels
Biomass and biofuels represent a key potential future growth area for renewables in China, but it still needs to be noted that these are newly established areas which are supported by very poor infrastructures that limit the sector's short term growth. The opportunities lie on second generation biofuels, ethanol and energy produce from feed stock sources. Overall, industries are still at the early stages of development as they are currently being investigated for future potential.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere