“It is fair to say that we are leading in clean technology development,” Wan said. Investment in innovation is a crucial factor in driving growth, he asserted, while emphasizing the need for flexible policy-making. “Technology innovation goes hand-in-hand with innovation of institutional arrangements.” Wan also acknowledged the challenges ahead: “Over the past two decades, development has boosted our development, but it has brought about some negative impacts as well, like air pollution.”
“China is undergoing an energy transformation,” said Shu Yinbiao, Chairman of China’s State Grid Corporation, reasserting that traditional fossil fuels should be replaced by clean energy. State Grid is a Fortune 500 company, and one of China’s biggest employers. Recently, it powered the entire western Chinese province of Qinghai for seven days entirely on renewable energy.
China aspires to shift its traditional energy mix so that renewable energy accounts for 50% or more of the grid. Beijing closed its last coal-fired power plant in March, and will invest in electric vehicles to combat environmental pollution and create healthier cities. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region will not need coal for its heating by the end of the year, according to forecasts. “It’s a world consensus to realize the transition to clean energy,” said Shu. “It’s an urgent task for China to help build such a world.”
“No matter how advanced technology is, we will always have to address industrial waste,” warned Liu Dashan, Chairman and Secretary of the Party Committee for China’s Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group. Annual waste in China is currently the equivalent of 35 million tonnes of coal power. International collaboration is key, Liu stressed. “We need all society to work hand in hand, and government support is essential.”
China is creating a new world order in clean tech, as the world’s biggest polluter transforms into the largest renewable energy market. “It’s very refreshing to hear that China has a plan,” said Alex Molinaroli, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Johnson Controls, and a Co-Chair of the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2017. Breakthroughs in technology, such as energy storage and energy efficiency, are key, and policies should be in place to make every step of recycling profitable.
Africa also has great potential to lead the way in renewable energy. “In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Africa could be a low-carbon player,” said Shu, “which is heavily dependent on renewable energy.” Africa has rich natural resources, and lots of wind and solar power to harness. China can collaborate with African countries on clean technology, participants agreed, and continue to share expertise and manpower.
The One Belt, One Road initiative will further contribute to international cooperation, fostering the flow of clean technologies between borders. That is a common and global objective, in line with the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and governments should build the legal frameworks to encourage the adoption of clean energy. “China has an opportunity to lead,” said Molinaroli, and to “move from an importer of technologies to a developer of technologies for the rest of the world.”