There is no better moment in history for the U.S. and China to work together on clean energy. President Obama's fiscal stimulus package will first and foremost have an economic benefit for the US economy. But from my perspective working on clean energy issues in China, the stimulus package can have a dual hit, helping to reduce China's voracious energy appetite as well as set the stage for expanded business opportunities for the U.S. in China.
Even with China's current economic retrenchment, the energy sector continues to expand. China is the most receptive it's ever been to international resources and collaboration, seeking expertise, training, technology, and policy feedback in its quest to go green. Strategic implementation of the stimulus plan will help U.S. companies leverage this opportunity to reach out and sell into this world's largest energy market.
China today is not the China of yesterday. China's clean energy policy targets are some of the most progressive in the world today. Their 11th 5-year plan calls for 20% reduction in energy intensity and 10% reduction in certain emissions between 2006 and 2010. Local leaders are now accountable for reaching these targets. China is also pushing to develop local technologies in areas of electric vehicles and ultra-high voltage transmission lines.
The U.S. can capitalize on red China's new green intent to create U.S. jobs and increase exports of products and services to China. But it needs to do so in a more methodical fashion, coordinating with local bridges such as JUCCCE, and acting collectively to appear more accessible to Chinese buyers.
It's time for U.S.-China collaboration to do more than merely talk about the importance of international collaboration and MOUs. We must move beyond philosophical difference in approaches to climate change or managing our citizens. We must strategically concentrate on executing a few marquee programs that will demonstrate near-term, scalable and tangible results. From this success will come many economic, social and political benefits.
There are three key areas where we can simultaneously create near-term jobs and commerce for the U.S., while helping China quickly deploy green solutions.
China invested $35 billion on new power grid construction last year- a largely untapped market for Smart Grid, the backbone of a new clean energy and energy efficient world. As China begins to look at Smart Grid development, U.S. Smart Grid experts should proactively and collectively create a dialogue with China's grid executives to explore what Smart Grid can look like in China, how to roll it out, and what are the best technologies to deploy
China's two grid companies have the opportunity to deploy Smart Grid at a faster rate and larger scale than anywhere in the world- potentially creating jobs and commerce for leading U.S. Smart Grid companies.
U.S. grid companies also stand to benefit by working closely with China from the start. Because of the size of deployment, China can effectively set the world's Smart Grid communication standards. Economies of scale will also lower production costs and drive equipment prices down.
China is building two New York Cities in new floor space each year. Over the next 20 years, 350 million rural inhabitants will move to surrounding cities. This unprecedented rate of urbanization is huge market opportunity for US green building expertise and products.
At the hub of all this activity are mayors of about 700 Chinese cities, who are being held accountable for central government energy intensity and emissions reductions targets. A mayoral training program designed to present turnkey city-level green solutions can be a tremendous sales channel for U.S. products and services, while providing valuable resources to Chinese Mayors in their efforts to build green cities.
Energy Workforce Job Training
China is laying down new infrastructure faster than its workforce has the capability to "go green". China needs to train energy auditors, green building consultants, energy master planners, power plant operators, and much more.
The U.S. is traditionally strong in service industries and knowledge workers. By jointly creating green vocational training schools, the U.S. can create job opportunities for green collar workers far beyond the domestic market. China can coordinate job opportunities for U.S. graduates and teach students how to work in a Chinese business environment.
By thinking beyond U.S. borders, the Obama administration can make the new stimulus package go much further. The plan to spend $4.5 billion on Smart Grid investments and billions to create green jobs can be used to tap into both the U.S. and China energy markets.
True collaboration takes place in the nuts-and-bolts of execution, not at grand conferences with grand rhetoric or through shuttle diplomacy. It's time for the U.S. and China to collaborate in a meaningful way on investments critical to a healthy future.
Peggy Liu is the Chairperson of JUCCCE. She was honored as a Time Magazine Environmental Hero in 2008, and as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader in 2009. She served as an advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative, Energy and Climate Change committee in 2008. In her professional career, she has served as a venture capitalist in Shanghai, and early Internet pioneer in Silicon Valley, a management consultant, and a software programmer.
About the Joint US-China Cooperation on Clean Energy (JUCCCE): JUCCCE is a non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate the greening of China through international collaboration on impactful programs. In conjunction with our strategic advisors, JUCCCE has developed a clear roadmap of high-impact programs to change the way China creates and uses energy in the near-term. It is widely recognized as a leading energy non-profit in China. Established in 2007, JUCCCE has offices in San Francisco, Shanghai, and Beijing. For more information, please visit www.juccce.com.