In November, Professor Rui Wang and I led a twenty-student SAIS delegation on a ten-day ‘China Energy Transition’ tour, sponsored by the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF). We visited three cities – Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai – and had a wonderful opportunity to meet with governmental agencies, private companies, carbon exchanges, energy/environmental and public policy NGOs…. and even the new city near Shanghai where Tesla is expected to build a factory for its electric vehicles. The whole trip was a truly memorable affair, with first-class accommodations and detailed attention from CUSEF, as well as logistical support from the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC).

Shenzhen waste-to-energy plant

The really difficult task was selecting tour participants, since more than seventy (very, very qualified!) SAIS students applied. We ended up with ten students from the DC campus; eight from our HNC campus in Nanjing; and two from Bologna.

Our first stop was Beijing, and here the focus was on governmental policy and direction. We met with senior officials from the National Development & Reform Commission; the Energy Research Institute; the National Energy Administration; and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Beijing also offered a chance for me to catch up with many other good friends and colleagues, both as part of the tour (the Beijing carbon exchange at CBEEX & the Paulson Institute) and individually (Prof. Zhuang Yahui from my UN days, as well as four former students). CUSEF also treated our delegation to a Ming Tombs visit (see posting above).

We then flew down to Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong…. & China’s ‘Silicon Valley,’ focusing on information and other new technologies. We had a chance to visit with BYD, the electric car/battery company that received a substantial investment from Warren Buffet a few years ago; the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute in the Nanshan Intelligence Industrial Park, a high-tech research center surrounded by universities; and the Shenzhen carbon exchange CEEX (the first of seven emissions exchanges to begin operations in the country’s domestic pilot ETS program). Of particular interest to me (since I spent five years working on waste-to-energy [WTE] systems several decades ago!) was a visit to a SE Environment Engineering Company (SEEE) 400 tpd mass-burn facility…. the very first WTE facility I’ve visited in China!

Virtual reality in Nanhui

Shanghai was next, although we started out with a one-day side-trip to nearby Changzhou – site of TrinaSolar, which has set 16 solar energy efficiency records over the past six years; and the Guodian coal-fired power plant (site of a previous HNC student visit). The latter visit enabled us to discuss the recent Guodian merger with Shenhua, China’s largest coal company…. and likely changes in the future coal-based power system. A visit with the Shanghai Institute of International Studies targeted the country’s outward reach for energy supplies and commodities; one with Nicobar, a boutique market intelligence firm, explored China’s nuclear strategy; and Nanhui, a new city in the Pudong area, showed the enormous scale of China’s development ambitions. Almost half of Nanhui was built on land reclaimed from the sea, and the city has a man-made lake even larger than Hangzhou’s West Lake. A virtual reality show featured plans for considerable high-tech industrial development, closely tied to manufacturing support; the nearby Yangshan deep-water port; an associated free trade zone; the urban/green-belt/residential areas; and the 60,000 university students already living there.

The tour ended with visits to the Yu Garden, dinner in the revolving restaurant up in the iconic Pearl TV Tower, and a wonderful nighttime cruise on the Huangpu River. Truly a spectacular and memorable energy program – and our sincere thanks to the folks at CUSEF who made this all possible!

On the Huangpu River in Shanghai

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