An Opportunity to Leapfrog Over the Dumb Grid
The U.S. federal stimulus funds included a lot of money for smart grid investments, but according to a recent report by ZPryme, a market research firm, China's government will be #1 in the world in 2010 when it comes to putting cash in smart grid projects (in absolute numbers, not per capita).
According to Zpryme's numbers, China's gov't is planning to invest $7.32 billion in smart grids in 2010 while the U.S. is planning $7.09 billion.
This is good news. Dumb power grids have wasted in enormous amount of energy so far, and they make it much harder to create conservation incentives for consumers and businesses (such as time-of-use electricity rates to shift demand off peak). Since China is more or less starting from scratch when it comes to infrastructure, they have a great opportunity to leapfrog the old way of doing things and jump straight to a smart grid that makes better use of energy resources and that can accomodate more intermittent renewable sources.
Coal Must Go Away
But this is not enough. The biggest problem in China when it comes to energy is the reliance on coal (and some of the world's dirtiest coal, in some regions). Coal plants have a long operational life, and China should stop building new ones as soon as possible. They and the world can't afford to keep burning coal at the rate we're burning it now, and even less to keep adding new coal plants by the week.
I know that coal seems cheap and a good way to add baseload generation capacity, but when you factor everything in (internalize the costs), coal isn't cheap at all, and it'll only get more expensive in the coming years (even carbon capture, which doesn't scale yet, will probably be very expensive if it can be made to work one day). China shouldn't just leapfrog when it comes to energy distribution, they should also leapfrog dirty technologies when it comes to energy generation.
But this isn't just China's responsibility; whatever country you live in, you should be signed up for Green Power with your utility if that option is available, and you should support clean power on the political scene. Don't wait for others to do it for you.
Speaking of China, the Planet 100 video from yesterday has a few items about the Middle Empire:
Via Zpryme, Green Inc
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