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June 15, 2017

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China at forefront of global energy transition

WHEN LanzaTech, a company that turns industrial waste gas into fuel and chemical products, tried to bring its technology to the market, it sought partnerships in the United States, but to no avail.

It was in China that the bioenergy start-up found some of its first industrial backers.

Baosteel Group and Shougang Group, two major steelmakers, established joint ventures with LanzaTech, laying the foundation for the company’s commercialization.

Since then, global partners joined in, raising more funds for the firm while helping it win global awards in clean energy.

Without the early involvement of the two Chinese steel giants, there stood little chance for the technology to become commercialized, according to Andrew Chung, former general partner at Khosla Ventures, an early investor in LanzaTech.

China’s enthusiasm for clean energy is pushing the global transition toward a low-carbon future. With public and private investment and commitment to collaboration, China is playing an increasingly important role in global clean tech innovation.

Over the past few years, China saw more investment and installation in renewable energy than any other country, according to a report by the World Bank.

Solar and wind capacity have been growing rapidly, as the country tries to shift from coal-based energy consumption to a model more reliant on clean energy.

“The development of clean energy technology in China has been remarkable in the past years,” Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of International Renewable Energy Agency, said on the sidelines of a clean energy meeting held in Beijing last week.

“This has also had a global benefit, because this scale of investment in technology, production and manufacturing has led to dramatic decreases in prices,” he said.

China plans to invest 2.5 trillion yuan (US$368 billion) into renewable energy projects during the 2016-2020 period, creating more than 13 million jobs in the sector, according to the National Energy Administration.

With the official pledge, the private sector has smelled opportunity. Electric carmakers in China such as BYD have received a boost in sales, rivaling international competitors including Tesla and Nissan.

In 2016, China was by far the largest electric car market, accounting for more than 40 percent of electric cars sold worldwide and more than double the amount sold in the United States, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

While betting big on domestic clean tech innovation, China is also actively seeking global expertise in the field while sharing its wisdom with the world.

During a meeting with US Energy Secretary Rick Perry in Beijing, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said he hopes the two countries can strengthen cooperation in the areas of fossil fuels and renewable energy so as to jointly push forward the transition to clean energy and contribute to the sustainable development of global energy.

California Governor Jerry Brown also expressed his interest in collaborating with Chinese officials and businesses during his visit last week, saying that Chinese expertise in fields including battery technology and zero-emission cars could help California with its own clean energy push.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, will further boost global clean energy cooperation, creating an interconnected energy system worldwide, said Amin.

“China is important not only from the climate perspective. China is important in the perspective of how energy transition may happen in the future worldwide,” Amin said.


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