Mayflower Writer Team | Reporter: Amy Q | Editor & Publish: Jamie
Are there connections between the Chinese Communist Party and the U.S. government in wind energy? The answer is Yes. According to the book The Power of Renewables: Opportunities and Challenges for China and the United States, published in 2010 by The National Academies Press in Washington D.C., the history of U.S.-China energy cooperation started as early as 1979. But the two countries’ collaboration in wind energy wasn’t brought to the table until 16 years later.
During 1995 -1996, the Department of Energy (DOE) signed a Protocol for Cooperation in the Fields of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technology Development and Utilization with various Chinese ministries. In this protocol, wind energy appeared as large-scale wind systems. The next time that wind energy was brought up was in April 1999. In the second meeting of the U.S.-China Forum on Environment and Development, which was held in Washington, D.C., and co-chaired by then Vice President Al Gore and then Premier Zhu Rongji.
In July 2009, the Obama administration sent the then Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to China and made its first announcement on U.S.-Chinese energy cooperation. The cooperation wasn’t limited to the governmental level, many other projects and programs were also carried out among academic and research institutions, non-governmental organizations, foundations, and the private sector.
In accordance to The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and TreeHugger’s reports: in late October of 2009, Chinese wind turbine manufacturer A-Power Energy Generation Systems built a $1.5 billion wind farm project along with U.S. companies in West Texas. The project was a joint venture between China’s Shenyang Power Group (A-Power’s subsidiary company), Cielo Wind Power, and private equity firm U.S. Renewable Energy Group.
Instead of choosing the usual partners GE or Vestas, this time, U.S. companies trusted the one-year-old A-Power’s five-month-old subsidiary to manufacture 240 turbines that produce 600 megawatts (MW). The 36,000-acre-farm could supply electricity to 180,000 Texas homes. According to the U.S. Energy Department, the $1.5 billion would be financing through the Export-Import Bank of China, and it’s hoping to secure 30 percent.
During the Presidential Summit that was held in November, the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation was officially announced. The U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP) was a public-private partnership, with more than 22 companies as founding members to leverage private-sector resources for project development work in China across a broad array of clean energy projects, to the benefit of both nations.
But there were concerns from Capitol Hill. Based on E&E News’ report, the Congress pointed out that China was trying to compete with the United States in its own domestic market in an industry that the government had specifically been trying to promote with tax credits and other green jobs initiatives.
In response to the concerns, A-Power and the U.S. Renewable Energy Group announced on November 17th, to build a wind turbine production factory in the United States. The 320,000 square-foot plants would employ roughly 1,000 U.S. workers and produce 1,100 megawatts of turbines annually for projects in the Americas, according to an agreement signed by the companies.
However, tensions had increased with the Section 301 petition filed with the United States Trade Representative by the United Steelworkers (USW) in September 2010, claiming that “China’s green technology practices violate WTO rules.” What’s more, information about the results of those programs was difficult to find. With a few exceptions, official accounts of the achievements of these programs had not been made available. Little was known about the level of funding for each initiative as well.
No wonder many people became justifiably skeptical about government agreements for bilateral cooperation. But this isn’t over yet. Spoil Alert: Wonder how the mentioned Chinese companies are like? Wait for our next analysis article!
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