Archive for September, 2013


Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

In July, I was back in China…. this time as part of the ‘Promoting Energy Efficient Room Air Conditioners’ (PEERAC) project, a five-year GEF/UNDP effort. One 2008 survey found that fully 86% of the air conditioning (AC) units being manufactured in the country fell into the lowest, most inefficient Grade 5 category – and PEERAC was subsequently designed & implemented to help address that situation. The tremendous importance of this project can be seen in two fundamental facts: 1) the figure below (based on a 2009 study in the Netherlands) shows the dramatic increase in energy use that is expected to occur in this century, as rising incomes in developing countries and global warming itself drives the demand for increased AC; and 2) China now manufactures 70% of the world’s AC units.

PEERAC began in late 2010, and I was retained at the half-way point to lead a three person evaluation team whose job was to see how well things were progressing, and to figure out how it might be improved. My two colleagues in this Mid-term Review were Dr. Bai Quan and Prof. Yu Cong, both affiliated with the Energy Research Institute (the energy research arm of China’s NDRC). I had met & worked with Prof. Yu more than ten years ago, when we were both part of a team that helped develop the China End-Use Energy Efficiency Programme (EUEEP) – a successful proposal that landed $17 million in GEF funding. It was really great to work with her once again, as well as with my new colleague, Dr. Bai. In the last few days of our project, he left for a six month visiting scholar position at Nagoya University in Japan – but conscientiously made sure that all of his work had been submitted and incorporated into the report.

AC energy demand; Isaac and van Vuuren, D., Energy Policy, 2009; graphics: The Economist, 05 January 2013.

Fortunately, the Chinese government has undertaken a number of energy efficiency (EE) programs since that 2008 survey, including new EE technical standards for AC units, and governmental stimulus funding (after the financial crisis) offering rebates to consumers buying EE units, as well subsidies for manufacturers producing them. So PEERAC is not alone in tackling this major, major energy and environmental concern – but we obviously hope that our evaluation and recommendations will help too!

Beijing and Zhuhai

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

As part of PEERAC (noted immediately above), I had a chance to visit not only Beijing, but also Zhuhai – “The City of a Hundred Islands” (actually 146, for you quant types) located on the southern coast of Guangdong Province, right next to Macau. While a tourist or gambling-type visit would certainly have been nice, this trip was a bit more serious…. as I was traveling with a technical group visiting factories. Guangdong Province is the largest production base for room air conditioners in China, generating more than 60% of the industry’s revenue – and we had an opportunity to visit the Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. manufacturing complex there, as well as the nearby Zhuhai Landa Compressor Company (a wholly-owned Gree subsidiary which supplies 60% of that manufacturer’s compressors). Gree is the world’s largest air conditioning manufacturer – producing about one in every three AC units sold around the world.

For those of you not familiar with Chinese manufacturing facilities, I’d definitely recommend taking a look at the first seven minutes of the film Manufactured Landscapes, a 2006 documentary film about the work of photographer Ed Burtynsky (directed by Jennifer Baichwal, and available on the web). The opening is a stunning panning shot, and while it was filmed in a clothes iron manufacturing facility (not an air conditioner plant), it will nevertheless give you an idea about what goes on in such factories in this part of the world. These are truly amazing facilities, and Gree’s is enhanced with a comprehensive energy management system (GMIS) that covers their whole complex.

The Beijing portion of the trip was also interesting – and you might have guessed from my earlier May posting that reading Midnight in Peking definitely piqued my interest in 1930s China. So I brought along the author’s recent follow-up e-book about the Badlands on this visit, as well as a biography of Edgar Snow, whose 1938 classic Red Star Over China introduced Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party to a Western audience. Snow’s political history is a complicated one – due more to changes in U.S. politics (i.e., McCarthyism and the Vietnam War) and China’s own internal politics (i.e., the Great Leap Forward & the Cultural Revolution) than any changes in his own views, which were consistently Midwestern liberal. His biographer has produced an entertaining and well-written book (as was Snow’s original classic), and the final chapter notes that half of Snow’s ashes are buried in the U.S. and half in China (at Peking University).

I took some time on this Beijing trip to stroll around the lake at ‘Beida’ once again, on a hot and very hazy summer afternoon, to see the site of his final China resting place. Snow had formerly taught at the institution (then Yenching University), and had played a supportive (but behind the scenes) role in the students’ December 9th Movement protest against Japan in 1935. There were lots of families and young couples strolling around this scenic part of campus on the summer weekend, and someone had left a bouquet of red roses at the memorial — a nice tribute to an almost universally-liked journalist (even by those who didn’t appreciate his views). His memorial reads: “An American Friend of the Chinese People.”