Wednesday, 22 April 2009

EPA Previews Carbon Caps' Impact

WASHINGTON -- A proposal in Congress to cut U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by putting a price on carbon could raise prices for electricity by 22% and natural gas by 17% in 2030, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency.

But the impact on consumers would be modest, provided the government returns the bulk of the money raised by a carbon cap-and-trade system to households, the analysis showed.
If that happens, the analysis showed the average American household would pay an extra $98 to $140 a year -- 27 cents to 38 cents a day -- to cut greenhouse-gas emissions as proposed by the bill, which the House will begin debating in earnest Wednesday.
The EPA published the analysis on its Web site Tuesday, just as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) were opening the first of four days of hearings on their measure, which calls for cutting U.S. emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and roughly 80% by 2050.
The EPA analysis represents the first published examination by any government agency of the Waxman-Markey bill.
Environmental Capital
EPA Says Climate Bill Will Cost Just Pennies a Day
The EPA analysis cautions that there are "a range of uncertainties" surrounding the Waxman-Markey measure that "could significantly affect the results."
In a sign of the difficulties that Democrats could face in passing climate legislation, a senior member of Mr. Waxman's panel, Rep. Rick Boucher (D., Va.,) said in an interview Tuesday that the chairman's proposal to cut emissions 20% by 2020 is "a stretch" and "absolutely could not be achieved," unless it was amended to give companies more credit for so-called offset projects that aim to cut emissions through undertakings like preventing deforestation.

Mr. Boucher, whose district is rich in coal, said he is preparing recommendations on ways to amend the bill to attract the support of lawmakers and industry groups with similar concerns.
The EPA analysis, which was requested by Reps. Waxman and Markey, focused mainly on the effectiveness and projected costs of the lawmakers' proposed cap on emissions. Citing time limitations, the EPA said it didn't try to assess the impacts of other provisions in the bill, such as those that would mandate energy efficiency improvements by appliances and buildings, or some of the energy-related provision in the recently passed economic stimulus legislation.—Ian Talley contributed to this article.
Write to Stephen Power at

A greener world from the ground up

Local co-operation, such as that between Yorkshire and Chongqing in China, can help to tackle climate change globally

John Prescott, Tuesday 21 April 2009 16.00 BST

It was good to see the Guardian report that China is now considering emission targets as part of its package of measures for the climate change negotiations now under way and to be concluded at Copenhagen in December.
It did not come as a surprise to me as I only just returned from my 13th visit to China last Thursday. My five-day visit to Chongqing – the world's largest city with 32 million people – was leading a Yorkshire delegation to discuss the implementation of the recently agreed memorandum of understanding between our regions, signed by our prime minister and Premier Wen Jiabao in their summit last January.
Its purpose was to increase co-operation, research and investment between Yorkshire and Chongqing, as both have experienced similar industrial developments with environmental degradation from coal, steel, textiles, ship building, agriculture, ports and shipping.
Britain and Yorkshire's achievements in cleaning up our rivers, purifying our air and having an advanced environmental regulatory framework to reduce carbon emissions are of great interest to Chongqing and China.
China has now decided to switch the emphasis from its rapidly growing eastern coastal areas to cities like Chongqing in the western part of the country.
The aim is to transform it from an old industrial city into a modern low-carbon city. This is a further indication of China's desire to contribute to a global solution on carbon emissions. But it is not made easy with Chongqing being a major coal-producing area.
Yorkshire has a much-reduced coal industry, though is about to reopen a mothballed pit to fuel power stations. However, it has a wealth of experience in the mining industry – in safety, training, community regeneration, carbon sequestration and clean coal technology. Co-operation at this regional level is of major interest to the Chinese.
This is a major change from the usual national agreements on co-operation to arrangements on a regional level that offer more targeted and relevant support. It's also a small but important step on the road to finding a global solution for climate change which will and must include coal as part of any energy policy whether in the UK, China, America or any developing country.
The UK is one of the very few countries to have achieved its Kyoto targets. It has enjoyed a decade of sustainable growth, while still cutting its carbon emissions.
It was the first to develop carbon capping and trading with the most sophisticated environmental statutory framework. Yes, it still has an awful lot more to do and I'm sure tomorrow's budget will see us move closer towards a low-carbon economy. Fittingly it's being delivered on Earth Day.
Nevertheless the big challenge is to secure a universal agreement for climate change at Copenhagen. 2009 is clearly going to be the most significant year for economic and environmental change. The UK has a unique opportunity to lead the world in this change as it has done in the global financial crisis. I passionately believe a good co-operative relationship between the UK and China is a prerequisite for that.
As one of the main neogotiators at Kyoto, I can say the treaty would not have been successfully concluded without China. It persuaded the Group 77 of developing nations at Kyoto to support the deal which only really applied to developed countries.
However, the successor to the Kyoto agreement will have to be fundamentally different as it must now apply to all nations. It must recognise that the criteria to apply to emissions must take account of the state of a nation's industrial development and the size of its population.
This will mean that rich developed countries within the overall framework of carbon emission reduction will have to carry the burden of cuts so that we can allow developing counties to continue to grow and reduce the number of nearly 3 billion people living in poverty.
Of course new technology such as clean development mechanisms and carbon capture storage, along with the acceptance of the scientific evidence of climate change, will effectively herald in a new kind of world order.
The UK has a great opportunity to bring together the global financial reforms now under way with the fundamental changes arising from the climate change agreement. The Council of Europe's environment committee, chaired by my colleague Alan Meale, with myself as its rapporteur, has the remit to monitor the climate change negotiations. That's why we're holding our own conference involving 60 countries across Europe and Africa in September to ensure we pave the way for the deal at Copenhagen.
Nick Stern's excellent work on the economic consequences of global warming clearly shows that economic prosperity and climate change are two sides of the same coin.
Tomorrow's budget will hopefully make this clear. But I'm not convinced that we've really begun to educate the public as to the consequences of climate change – or our young people, who need to understand that decisions today will fundamentally change their quality of life in 20 years time.
I personally think the excellent Age of Stupid film should be shown in every school. I've even given a copy to the chancellor to watch and am currently arranging a screening of the film in the Council of Europe.
So in conclusion, while it might seem a small thing, the agreement between Chongqing and Yorkshire is an essential part of decisions that will need to be taken at global, national, regional and local level.
The Age of Stupid, when countries consumed without a thought about the global environmental consequences, is coming to an end.
We're all in this together now.

Climate change threatens Ganges, Niger and other mighty rivers

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 22 April 2009

Some of the mightiest rivers on the planet, including the Ganges, the Niger, and the Yellow river in China, are drying up because of climate change, a study of global waterways warned yesterday.
The study by the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado found that global warming has had a far more damaging impact on rivers than had been realised and that, overwhelmingly, those rivers in highly populated areas were the most severely affected. That could threaten food and water supply to millions of people living in some of the world's poorest regions, the study warned.
"In the subtropics this [decrease] is devastating, but the continent affected most is Africa," said NCAR's Kevin Trenberth. "The prospects generally are for rainfalls, when they do occur, to be heavier and with greater risk of flooding and with longer dry spells in between, so water management becomes much more difficult."
The scientists examined recorded data and computer models of flow in 925 rivers, constituting about 73% of the world's supply of running water, from 1948-2004. It found that climate change had had an impact on about a third of the major rivers. More than twice as many rivers experienced diminished flow as a result of climate change than those that saw a rise in water levels.
In addition, those rivers that did see a rise were in sparsely populated, high latitude areas near the Arctic Ocean where there is rapid melting of ice and snow.
The authors said their study brought new clarity to an understanding of the long-term effects of climate change on waterways. "I think our study settles the question regarding long-term trends in global streamflow," said Aiguo Dai, the lead author of the report.
The greatest danger was posed to those dependent on the Niger in West Africa, the Ganges in South Asia and the Yellow river in China. The Colorado river in the US was also experiencing a drop in water levels.
Other big rivers in Asia, such as the Brahmaputra in India and the Yangtze in China, remained stable or registered an increase in flow. But the scientists said they too could begin shrinking because of the gradual disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers.

Last chance for a green budget

The Guardian, Wednesday 22 April 2009

Today we face three of the greatest challenges of our time, global recession, energy security and the threat of catastrophic climate change. The only solution to this triple crunch is a low-carbon recovery. Millions of jobs could be created around the world, global warming emissions slashed and energy security increased. There is no choice between economic recovery and climate recovery - they are one and the same. But time is running out and we need bold measures at the heart of this year's budget to build a low-carbon economy, ramp up energy efficiency and provide the renewables industry with urgently needed support to overcome immediate difficulties. To help provide the critical investment required, the government should set up and fund a Green Infrastructure Bank, backed by Green Bonds. This could leverage over £100bn in private finance to help create a dynamic low-carbon energy system.
This financial support must be used to drive programmes that ensure by 2020 every UK home is a low-carbon home, the UK meets its renewable targets and is a world leader in renewable energy manufacturing and deployment. It is time to rebuild and repower the UK.Ed Matthew Friends of the Earth Philip Wolfe Renewable Energy Association Maria McCaffery British Wind Energy Association Graham Meeks Combined Heat & Power Association Howard Johns Solar Trade Association Paul King UK Green Building Council Andrew Simms New Economics Foundation John Sauven Greenpeace Shaun Spiers Campaign to Protect Rural England Jenny Saunders National Energy Action Ann Pettifor Advocacy International Neil Schofield Worcester - Bosch Group John Meadows Schott UK Ltd And 46 others
Polly Toynbee (Be bold, Chancellor, and you could be our Lloyd George, 21 April) cannot resolve the obvious contradictions within New Labour. New Labour has had plenty of chances to pursue policies, such as higher taxes for the rich, which would help produce a more equal society - but have repeatedly failed to do so. The government has had huge electoral majorities and popular goodwill to have already passed a People's Budget - but never took that chance. Toynbee wrote last year (Stop tinkering, Gordon. 25 April 2008): "Once and for all, Labour needs to show unequivocally whose side it is on" - but that was before the recession hit. In September, she gave them another "last chance", if they got rid of Brown. Yet Brown is still in office, and now Toynbee gives them one more "last chance", if Darling can only produce a budget either he or Brown could have introduced years ago, in better economic circumstances: maybe she feels they still deserve one last "last chance". Derrick Cameron Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Insurers Offer Rewards for Going Green


Your insurance company may give you a break if you go green.
The $16 trillion insurance industry has begun to address climate change with mandatory risk disclosures and more products to help reduce energy use. Insurers have begun to offer lower premiums on car, homeowner and property insurance for people who drive less, own hybrid cars or build green homes.
In March, insurance regulators adopted mandatory climate-risk disclosure standards for insurance companies with annual premiums of $500 million or more. These standards require the firms to report to regulators and investors the types of payout risks they may face due to climate change.
In the past year, there has also been a large uptick in insurance products offered to climate-friendly consumers, according a report released this month by Ceres, a coalition of investors, environmental groups and other organizations. The number of new products doubled in 2008. They include coverage for wind and solar production shortfalls, premium discounts for energy-efficient buildings and discounts for hybrid-vehicle ownership and reduced driving.
Early estimates show people with pay-as-you-drive, or PAYD, policies, drive 5% to 15% less than average drivers. Fewer cars on the road mean lower accident rates and reduced fuel emissions.
"What insurers are finding out is that there is a strong correlation between reduced driving and risk," says Andrew Logan, director of insurance programs for Ceres.
Opting to drive less can reduce premiums by more than 50%, says Wayne Bontrager, senior vice president at GMAC Insurance, a unit of GMAC Financial Services. Two dozen companies offer PAYD insurance products, Ceres estimates, including GMAC, Progressive Corp. and AON Corp.
Insurers believe drivers of hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicles can be more responsible, lower-risk customers, says Mr. Bontrager. Among companies offering a 5% to 10% discount on premiums for hybrid drivers are Travelers Cos. and Farmers Insurance, which is owned by Zurich Financial Services AG.
Almost two dozen insurers offer premium credits and discounts for owners of "green" commercial and residential buildings, according to Ceres. In the U.S., that typically means buildings with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or Energy Star certifications.
Green buildings are considered safer than conventional homes, reduce energy use and perform better in the long run, leading to a decrease in losses and greenhouse-gas emissions. For instance, air conditioners and furnaces that don't run often are less likely to have mechanical breakdowns, says Janet Ruiz, a spokeswoman for the Fireman's Fund, which offers a 10% discount on yearly premiums for owners of LEED-certified homes. Fireman's Fund is a unit of Allianz SE.
Write to Jilian Mincer at and Shelly Banjo at

Deal of the day

Ramco Energy fell 1p to 46½p after raising £1.65 million in a share placing arranged at 46p by Ambrian, its broker, to help to finance SeaEnergy Renewables, its 80 per cent-owned British offshore wind farm business. SeaEnergy and Ramco’s 35 per cent-owned Iraqi oil associate are expected to announce their own fundraisings shortly.

Coal-burning power stations to get Government approval

New coal-burning power stations will get Government approval, setting up fresh clashes between ministers and environmentalists.

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent Last Updated: 7:24PM BST 21 Apr 2009

Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, is expected to set out rules for more "carbon capture and storage" coal plants, despite industry doubts about whether so-called "clean coal" is cost-effective and questions about the technology involved.
Mr Miliband is expected to give the go-ahead for at least one new carbon-capture coal plant, financially supported by the Government to demonstrate the new technology. A new licensing regime for new coal stations will also be set out.

Energy firms fear say that they still cannot profitably operate CCS coal plants and are likely to develop gas-fired plants instead, increasing the country's dependence on imported energy.
Mr Miliband is exploring options for persuading the industry to look again at coal. One option, still under discussion, is for a new levy on household energy bills that would raise money to support the new carbon capture technology.
Mr Miliband's department estimates that by 2020 a third of UK power plants will be closed due to age or rising environmental standards.
With "renewable" sources like wind and wave power still struggling to be profitable on a large scale and new nuclear plants still several years off, insiders believe that traditional fuels like coal must have a continuing role.
Carbon capture is supposed to work by trapping CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels like coal then storing it underground to prevent it reaching the upper atmosphere where many scientists say it contributes to climate change.
There are continuing scientific doubts about how safely and effectively carbon can be stored.
But the argument for CCS was boosted earlier this month when a study published in the journal Nature has shown that for millions of years carbon dioxide has been stored safely and naturally in underground water in gas fields saturated with the greenhouse gas.

Vatican to build Europe's largest solar power plant

The Vatican plans to spend €500m building a 100-megawatt solar power plant supplying electricity to 40,000 homes

Leo Hickman, Tuesday 21 April 2009 17.43 BST

The Vatican is well versed in conversions, but there probably hasn't been something on this scale since its very own St Paul was on his way to Damascus: the world's smallest country has announced it is to spend €500m (£441m) building Europe's largest solar power plant.
Once the 100-megawatt plant opens in 2014, the Vatican will become an electricity exporter to Italy supplying enough power for the needs of 40,000 households. It is latest in a string of pronouncements by the Holy See – or should it now be known as the Holy E? – that suggests it is serious about improving its environmental legacy. (Although still no word yet on how it aims to tackle global overpopulation through its policy on forbidding the use of contraception. Or on whether it's having second thoughts about the wisdom of launching Vatican Airlines.)
Last year, 2,700 solar panels donated by the German company SolarWorld were installed on the roof of the Paul VI auditorium. SolarWorld executives have also recently talked about the notion of building a low-carbon, electric popemobile, which a Vatican spokesperson described as a "brilliant idea". Although the new solar project will go to public tender, SolarWorld's chief executive officer Frank Asbeck is reported to have said: "We're quite confident we'll get the job." Well, the Catholic Church has always been big on rewarding loyal devotion.
Perhaps the Vatican's most noted environmental announcement, however, was made last year when Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, updated the cardinal vices – the seven social sins – by stating that Catholics "offend God not only by stealing, taking the Lord's name in vain or coveting your neighbor's wife, but also by wrecking the environment". Let's hope that hell and eternal damnation can be avoided, then, by all this recent good practice when it comes to environmental stewardship. (There is one supplementary question I have about hell, though: if the damned are to be burned once the torturing is over, can they at least be classified as biomass?)

The Old Streetlamp of the Past Gets Updated for a Green Future

Streetlights were the first big users of electricity. Now, they are being re-engineered to improve efficiency, but at a cost that today's municipalities might have a tough time covering.
San Jose, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley, is testing a concept called "adaptive lighting," in which streets can be made brighter, darker or even be illuminated with flashing strobes upon command.
By summer, the city will have installed 125 streetlamps using LED technology, in one of the biggest urban tests of the science so far in the U.S. The city hopes to cut down on energy use, and, hopefully, lower its utility costs, by tapping LED lighting's greater flexibility.
The test in San Jose coincides with a broad push by federal and state agencies to modernize the nation's lighting infrastructure. Many homes and businesses have replaced incandescent bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent lights. Now cities, faced with tighter budgets, are looking for ways to cut street-lighting costs and to reduce emissions from power plants.
San Jose Department of Transportation
Raley's supermarket in West Sacramento, Calif., recently had LED lights installed with funding from the Department of Energy.
But the cost savings will take time to materialize. Street and highway lights use about 2% of the nation's electricity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Many cities have LED traffic signals, but because of the high cost of producing white light with LED, local governments have been reluctant to install them in streetlights. The effort is further complicated not only by strapped municipal coffers, but resistance from star-gazers and others who object to LEDs brighter glare.
LED, or light-emitting diodes, are electronic lights based on semiconductor technology. They use less energy and last longer than the sodium vapor-powered lights typically used in urban street lighting.
LED technology has been around for decades, and is often found in electronic gadgets. It is used in streetlamps in some European cities.
Unlike regular streetlamps, LED lights can be programmed to respond to specific commands. For example, a city could dim the lighting on commercial strips after business hours, or turn up the lights after bars close, says Jim Helmer, director of San Jose's transportation department. Streets around Little League baseball diamonds could be made brighter as people walk to their cars, and then turned down afterward.
By regulating the lights based on activity, the city hopes to cut down on "light spillage" -- city planners' term for light that shines where it isn't wanted, creating an urban nuisance.
San Jose expects to spend $150,000 to $200,000 on a pilot project in its Hillview North neighborhood, and it is seeking an additional $2 million in federal stimulus funds to enlarge the test.
The LED streetlights being tested in San Jose could save anywhere from 10% to 60% on energy use, depending on their brightness. The white LEDs will have a range of between one and 82 watts and will replace 55-watt, yellowish sodium-vapor lamps.
The lights will be controlled under a system developed by energy-software company Echelon Corp. of San Jose, the general contractor in the pilot program.
But for now, many cities see little financial advantage to switching their lighting systems.
It can cost $600 to install a single LED streetlight, compared with $200 for a sodium-vapor lamp. What's more, utilities often charge cities a flat rate based on the number of streetlamps they operate, regardless of use.
Currently, San Jose pays Pacific Gas and Electric Co., a unit of PG&E Corp., a flat rate for electricity, about $300,000 a month. The utility has proposed a new rate program that would lower costs for LED streetlights; the plan is awaiting review by state utility regulators.
The Department of Energy has been funding lighting tests, such as a recent retrofit of a Raley's supermarket parking lot in West Sacramento, Calif., with 16 LED lamps and motion sensors. They run at 49 watts, unless they sense activity, when they power up to 149 watts. They could pay for themselves in energy savings in four to five years.
Fourteen miles east of San Jose on Mount Hamilton, the astronomers at the Lick Observatory have another concern: The bright white light of LEDs illuminate the night sky and obscure views of planets and stars. The scientists helped San Jose select its sodium lamps in the 1980s because the observatory can filter out yellow light. "Going to any other kind of lighting is detrimental," says Burt Jones, the observatory's assistant director.
But Dr. Jones says scientists are working with city officials to make LEDs benign, suggesting they dim after midnight or eliminate near-infrared and ultraviolet light from the LED color spectrum. "In those colors, the sky would still look dark to us," explains Dr. Jones.
Write to Rebecca Smith at

China Puts Its Electric Vehicles on Center Stage

SHANGHAI -- Chinese auto makers are unveiling a slew of battery-powered cars and other energy-efficient vehicles at this week's auto show here that could make them more globally competitive and eventually help address the air pollution that chokes many Chinese cities.
Alternative-fuel cars were some of the hottest items on display at the Shanghai auto show from homegrown companies like Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd., Brilliance Jinbei Automobile Co. and Chery Automobile Co.
Some of the new and updated models, such as a battery-powered version of Geely's Panda hatchback, may hit the market as early as October, and in some cases they might carry price tags low enough for farmers and other rural residents with limited financial means.
Associated Press
A model poses next to a new BYD e6 electric vehicle at the Shanghai International Auto Show.
The aggressive plans illustrate China's growing commitment to electrified vehicles and its strategy to support auto makers developing various types of electric cars and components with research subsidies. The government sees environmental upsides and a chance for its car makers to gain ground on foreign rivals, since electric vehicles are simpler to engineer than gasoline-engine ones.
Electric vehicles are "definitely affordable and environmentally friendly technology, and we think there's a huge potential market in China for them," Li Shufu, Geely's chairman, said in an interview Monday.
Making electric vehicles affordable will be critical for them to have an impact on the environment, as vehicle ownership continues to rise quickly. The hundreds of thousands of new cars being added every year to roads in China could further damage already shaky air quality if they are oil-based vehicles.
The battery-powered cars that Chinese companies are showing are intended to be much less expensive than those planned by big foreign companies. Great Wall Motor Co., based in northern China's Hebei province, on Monday unveiled its planned GWKulla all-electric car, which will likely be one of China's cheapest battery-powered cars when it hits showrooms as early as next year. Its expected price tag is between 60,000 yuan and 70,000 yuan, or about $8,780 to $10,250. The GWKulla, a short, curvy compact, runs on lithium-ion batteries and can go 160 kilometers (99 miles) when fully charged, the company says.
Chery showed a tiny battery car, the Riichi M1, that boasts similar technology and performance, and is likely to be priced under 100,000 yuan. Geely's Panda, which Geely executive Frank Zhao said the company plans to launch in China as early as October, will be similarly priced.
Those prices are much lower than that of General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which is expected to sell for $40,000 when it goes on sales in the U.S. in late 2010. GM plans to launch the Volt in China in 2011.
Chinese auto makers also showed other types of "new energy" vehicles, including regular gasoline-electric hybrids to compete with Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius hybrid. Among the most notable: a gas-electric hybrid Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. plans to launch by the end of next year.
China's technologies for electric vehicles, especially batteries, are still lagging behind in some important ways. And while many of the cars being shown this week in Shanghai are touted as "cutting edge" by their producers, it remains unclear how well they will perform -- and how Chinese consumers will react to such "new energy" cars.
In early testing, reviewers said a plug-in electric hybrid sedan from China's BYD Co. launched late last year had some kinks. The car, called the F3DM, was launched at least a year ahead of a similar car planned by Toyota. But the gasoline engine in the BYD rattled and could be noisy when it kicked in, the reviewers said. The steering wheel also tends to get stiff when making turns because of the car's increased weight from the batteries. BYD has said it is aware of these issues and is working resolve them.
"From what we have seen so far, [Chinese electric vehicle] technology is not that advanced" in terms of things like battery life, driving range and recharging, said Nick Reilly, head of GM Asia-Pacific operations, on Monday. "However, they have pretty good cost, and we know the Chinese government and these Chinese companies are investing a lot of money in battery technology, so I think it would be foolish of us to ignore them and believe that we are that far ahead."
Some regulatory and market characteristics make China one of the most promising markets to experiment with electric cars. The government's regulations and policies for things like building electric-car charging stations can be changed more easily here than in places like the U.S. Most Chinese buyers also are purchasing cars for the first time and have not developed particular preferences.

Still, "the challenge here is consumers are extremely value-oriented," said Raymond Bierzynski, head of GM Asia-Pacific engineering operations. "They're very much interested in the payback, so we have to be [make sure] value is there." One key move GM is counting on to make the Volt more affordable in China is government incentives, whether they are cash incentives for customers or subsidies for fleet purchases by government agencies.
Another notable battery car, though its producer decided to skip the Shanghai show, is a super-low-cost, two-seat mini electric car that Chinese parts producer Wonder Auto Technology Inc. and Korean golf cart maker CT&T Co. are expected to begin producing jointly this summer. Though equipped with decidedly low-tech lead-acid batteries and having a top speed of only 60-to-65 kilometers an hour, the car can go 100 kilometers when fully charged, according to the two companies.
The car's biggest appeal is its rock-bottom price of less than 40,000 yuan. Wonder Auto's chairman and CEO, Qingjie Zhao, believes the Chinese-Korean joint venture in Jinzhou (Liaoning province) could boost sales of the car to 50,000 vehicles a year within three years.
"A plug-in hybrid selling for 150,000 yuan is a pipe dream for farmers. It would take five to 10 years before they become truly affordable for everyday folk," Mr. Zhao said. "But low-cost commuter EVs like ours is already a reality, within the reach of thrifty farmers."—Ellen Zhu contributed to this article.
Write to Norihiko Shirouzu at

Vestas Bulks Up in China

Danish Firm Opens Turbine-Making Site for the Wind Market

BEIJING -- Vestas Wind Systems AS of Denmark, aiming to capture more of China's growing wind-energy market, has opened a facility in Inner Mongolia to build a turbine with bigger blades tailored for Chinese conditions.
The Danish company's facility will produce 800 turbines a year when it reaches full capacity by year end, said Lars Andersen, president of Vestas China operations.
Vestas is ramping up production in China at a time Beijing is promoting alternative energy to deal with worsening pollution. China's strong economic growth has been mostly fueled by coal. While coal will long remain the dominant source of energy, the pace of growth in the wind sector has surprised even industry insiders.
Propelled by the government mandates for clean energy, China's wind-power sector is on track to generate 100 gigawatts by 2020, more than triple the original target, Fang Junshi, an official with the National Energy Administration, said Monday.
At present, China gets only a small part of its 700 gigawatts of power from wind -- about 12.5 gigawatts -- but even that is higher than an earlier goal of reaching 10 gigawatts only in 2012.
Mr. Fang said that by 2020, China is expected to have a total of 1,400 to 1,500 gigawatts of power-generation capacity. At that time, he said, coal-fired power generation capacity will be around 900 to 1,000 gigawatts.
Chinese manufacturers have roughly three-quarters of the domestic wind-turbine market, but foreign players are trying to break in by capitalizing on better technology. Last year, Vestas had about 10% market- share in China, the company's second-biggest market after the U.S.
Vestas, which entered China in 2005 with 45 employees, expects to have more than 3,000 by year end. The company has invested $550 million in the country so far. "We are very aggressive in our expansion in China," Mr. Andersen said.
Despite the government's commitment to expanding wind power at a rate that outpaces planned growth in nuclear power, there are still problems in how the wind farms are managed and connected to the nation's larger electricity grid. China's best wind conditions are remote parts of Inner Mongolia, in China's arid north, not far from some of its richest coal mines, but thousands of kilometers away from the power-hungry coastal centers such as Shanghai and Shenzhen.
That has left some wind farms basically stranded. But the country's giant stimulus package includes upgrades to the national electricity grid that could help alleviate those problems. Other wind-power developers complain that China's system of tariff bidding, which gives preference to the lowest bidder rather than the cleanest technology, makes wind-power uneconomical. Mr. Andersen said that system can work when developers know the long-term cost of their energy output.
The new Vestas turbine, the V60, is the first one developed for a particular market, Inner Mongolia, and was designed to be easily packed into trucks for hauling over rough roads, and to operate in low-wind conditions, Mr. Andersen said.
World-wide, Vestas in 2007 produced turbines with a total capacity of 5,000 megawatts. It plans to double its capacity by 2010. In China last year, Vestas sold turbines that can generate 600 megawatts of power.—Wan Xu contributed to this article.
Write to Shai Oster at