As the two largest energy consumers in the world, the U.S. and China have a tremendous opportunity to shift the world’s reliance on fossil fuels to a more sustainable infrastructure based on renewable energy. Both countries have enjoyed recent growth in installed capacity, particularly for wind energy conversion, but power generation from renewables has yet to meet even 10 percent of primary energy demand in either country. NAE, the NRC Policy and Global Affairs Division, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) are conducting a joint study to assist both countries in developing strategies to scale up renewable power production and to identify prospects and recommend priorities for bilateral research and technology cooperation. This study is the latest phase of an ongoing cooperative program with the Chinese Academies of Sciences and Engineering that dates back to the late 1990s.
The purpose of this study, which is being conducted by U.S. and Chinese committees of leading scientific and technical experts, is intended to aid both national governments, their relevant agencies and ministries, and private industries in assigning priorities for cooperative activities in developing and using electricity from renewable energy. The study will pursue three separate but related goals:
- assessing resource potential in China and the United States for grid-scale electricity generation
- exploring near-term market opportunities for mature technologies
- recommending priorities for further collaboration, with a focus on reducing costs, improving efficiency and grid connectivity, and improving energy storage technologies
The study is focusing heavily on three major resources (wind, solar, and biomass) for grid-scale electricity generation. In addition, technologies with longer time horizons, such as enhanced geothermal and tidal power, are being taken into consideration.
This study builds on the America’s Energy Future panel report (2009), which assessed the technology risks and trade-offs for various renewable energy technologies. NAE member Dr. Larry Papay chairs the U.S. committee, which traveled twice to China and twice within the U.S. to hold bilateral meetings with a counterpart Chinese committee.
The second joint meeting was held in March 2009 in Hawaii, and included visits with the governor’s office, a geothermal power plant, wind farm, and several energy research institutes. In July 2009 the committees met in Qinghai Province, China, to learn about regional initiatives to build a PV manufacturing and power production base. Most recently, the committees met in October 2009, spending two days touring the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder, before traveling to Irvine, California. In California, the committees studied Southern California Edison’s efforts to build transmission dedicated to renewables, and the associated challenges of integrating large amounts of intermittent power into the grid.
The committees expect to issue their consensus report in October 2010, in English and, subsequently, in Chinese. Their findings and recommendations will be shared with the top levels of government in both countries, and the report will be available online so that it reaches a wider audience.