China in search of help

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A large delegation from China cruised both the conference sessions and exhibition floor at last month's European Wind Energy Conference (EWEC) in what it admitted was an intensive search for knowledge. "We have a lot to learn," said Shi Lishan from the National Development and Reform Commission of China (NRDC). China lacks the necessary talent, said a second speaker from the NRDC. "This is why we still rely on importing technologies."

The delegation was organised by the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association (CREIA) and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) representing the wind industry. The two organisations presented NRDC with a joint memorandum containing five priority areas for action on how best to realise the Chinese wind power potential.

First, the Chinese government should set a new target for 5% of the country's electricity to come from wind power by 2020; that would require about 120 GW of installed capacity, compared with today's target of 30 GW for 2020. Second, GWEC and CREIA recommended a market framework based on adequate fixed purchase prices for wind power. "If we get it right, the industry would grow phenomenally in China," Barry O'Flynn of Airtricity told an EWEC workshop on wind industry opportunities in China. Airtricity is developing wind projects in the country.

Third, all wind projects should be eligible to sell emission reduction certificates under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), not just projects majority owned by Chinese companies, as is the case today. Speaking at the workshop, Song Yanquin, a government representative, said China was registering all its wind power as CDM projects and that wind power made up 30% of the certified emission reduction units being traded internationally by China. "CDM can significantly increase the internal rate of return of the wind farm project and reduce the risk of investment," he said. O'Flynn was not so sure, pointing out that CDM certification added to the cost of a project. "It makes life a little bit more difficult for us," he said.

Fourth, the memorandum called for incentives to be paid to China's grid operators for connection of wind plant to the grid. Lastly, to build a strong domestic industry, China should encourage investment by foreign companies and ensure protection of intellectual property rights.

With representatives from two of China's largest wind turbine producers, Goldwind and Hua Rui, sitting shoulder to shoulder on the platform with competitors from Suzlon, Gamesa and Vestas, the topic of product quality quickly came to the fore. Suzlon's Per Hornung Pedersen pointed out that all recent "concession contracts" granted by China's government for wind farm construction had gone to companies using Chinese turbines. From Vestas, Søren Hesselberg Jensen said. "I think the industry should be concerned about how much electricity these turbines produce." Reliability is key, he said.

From Goldwind, Guo Jian said: "Goldwind is still the best seller. It is the market that has decided what the technology should be." Han Junliang from Hua Rui, a large Chinese industrial company of diversified interests, said: "China is very large. There is place for everyone." He added: "We have businesses like Goldwind going step by step. Companies like my company can take the technology to a high level. China needs companies like my company that can go into the market at a high level." O'Flynn had the last word: "We will buy turbines from anybody as long as it works. The cost per megawatt hour is what matters, not the cost per megawatt."

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