China is a Cleantech Laboratory
By Andrew Chang
China is a Cleantech Laboratory
By Andrew Chang
As climate headlines have been dominating the airwaves the past two weeks, it is certainly encouraging to see both US-China strike a climate deal to enhance cooperation between the two superpowers. Both sides have agreed to start a working group to share technology and policy development in the next decade which according to the US Department of State includes “regulatory frameworks and environmental standards to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the 2020s, maximizing societal benefits of the clean energy transition, policies to encourage decarbonization and electrification of end-use sectors, key areas related to the circular economy, such a green design and renewable resource utilization and the deployment and application of technology such as CCUS and direct air capture.”
There is no doubt this cooperation is necessary, timely, and significant. Without China’s participation, our chances of limiting to 1.5 degrees C global temperature is nothing but a pipe dream. That being said, I can confidently say that China is already moving at quantum speed to accelerate decarbonization through the development of innovative policies, technologies, and deployment.
Let’s start with facts. China is the biggest CO2 emitter in the world and also the biggest renewable energy market in the world. China holds 44% of the total EV market share in the world and sold 1.5m units in 2021. By the end of 2020, China has installed 253 GW of solar with a plan to add 55-65 this year and 282 GW of wind power with 12 GW of offshore wind. President Xi has committed to peak emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality and just before COP 26 announced that China will stop financing and building new coal-fired power plants abroad. As a follow-on, the China State Council released the “Working Guidance For Carbon Dioxide Peaking And Carbon Neutrality In Full And Faithful Implementation Of The New Development Philosophy” to translate commitment into action.
In 2010, Peggy Liu gave a TedX talk, China as the Cleantech Laboratory of the World, and while this talk is over a decade old, China continues to innovate. China is undoubtedly still the cleantech laboratory of the world and we can look at two trends that prove this.
EV Charging 2.0
On August 20, 2020, Nio the Chinese luxury EV carmaker launched its innovative Battery as a Service (Baas) subscription model that allows customers to purchase their vehicle separately and rent the battery packs. This business model fundamentally tackles the challenges for EVs such as battery degradation, battery upgradability, and car resale value. With this subscription, you are able to access its 606 battery swapping stations in China which can swap a fully charged battery in 3 minutes. Moreover, EV customers can enjoy other EV charging perks such as valet charging and a network of 459 fast-charging stations all with their mobile app. Nio has effectively addressed every pain point for EV customers such as range anxiety, battery failure, and lack of charging solutions while also creating a more connected, digital experience for customers.
Alternative Meat is Hip
According to Euromonitor, China’s plant-based meat industry is expected to be a $13 billion industry by 2023. China consumes half of the world’s pork so it’s a market plant-based meat startups cannot afford to ignore. Starfield, a Shenzhen startup has their proprietary seaweed protein used in pizza at Papa Johns, Fried Rice at Planet Green, and other food outlets. Other startups have also joined the plant-based meat race such as Hey Maet, ZhenMeat, Vesta, and Haofood. In order to scale and reach the mass market, most of these startups are partnering with fast-food chains such as Taco Bell, White Castle, and KFC. It’s an exciting space to be in because if plant-based meat can replace even 1% of meat consumption in China the positive environmental impact would be astronomical.
Innovations in EV charging and meat alternatives are just a few of the cleantech trends in China. We are at the inflection point of these two industries as the technology has been proven and now the challenge is mass customer adoption. China’s pursuit of wide-scale decarbonization requires an amalgamation of different pressure points both from the top-down and bottom-up and I’m thrilled to be in China witnessing these activities in real-time.
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