Despite the ongoing pandemic, 2021 taught us to celebrate the small wins of the growing ecosystem of China-based climate innovators. In our discussions with a host of climate and ESG experts in China, we learned that these innovations are set to expand across the value chain in 2022, from glass-free solar solutions to AI-backed ESG data technology.
In the latest address by President Xi at the World Economic Forum, Xi stated, “achieving carbon peak and carbon neutrality are the intrinsic requirements of China’s own high-quality development and solemn pledge to the international community.” In other words, reaching net zero is a means for self-preservation and global solidarity, not just a checkbox.
The Action Plan for Reaching Peak Carbon Emissions by 2030 outlines a number of measures, including actively developing “new energy,” with a goal of over 1,200 GW in total installed capacity for wind and solar. This is a brave and audacious goal that will draw billions of dollars in financing, development, companies and entrepreneurs to paint a sea of solar and wind across mountains, deserts and grasslands.
This top-level planning spawns entrepreneurs like Hu Yaowen, CEO of Guoben Energy in Yinchuan, the capital city of Ningxia. This Northwest region of China is sheltered by the deserts of Mongolia and is also home to Yanchi Ningxia Solar Park, one of largest solar farms in the world at 1 GW. Yaowen is not native to Yinchuan; she was born and raised in Chengdu. An analyst turned entrepreneur, Yaowen moved north in 2016 to build her own renewable energy service company that develops, arranges financing for, and maintains utility scale solar and wind projects. By the end of this year, Guoben Energy will have cumulatively constructed 5 GW of solar and wind in Ningxia, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi provinces.
Companies like Guoben Energy benefit from state-backed subsidies and must compete with the state-owned energy companies for projects. On a recent trip to Ningxia, New Energy Nexus staff visited a Guoben 20 MW solar farm; the solar panels are in the middle of a desert, alongside a 200 MW wind farm, and circling a coal-fired power plant. This is a telling picture of what’s to come.
According to folklore, the Year of the Water Tiger is a year associated with achievements and overcoming challenges. As the trilogy of the pandemic continues, companies are settling into a new normal of virtual meetings, while still driving real impact.
We look forward to watching both startups and mature companies innovate and overcome challenges in the climate friendly economy this year. We are excited to continue to share the microphone with entrepreneurs and agents of change – for people and for planet.
Marilyn Waite is managing director of the Climate Finance Fund and Andrew Chang is program director at New Energy Nexus in China.
China Cleantech 生态创新is a podcast that features China-connected cleantech innovations and innovators. Available on most podcast outlets inside and outside of China, China Cleantech covers untold stories, with critical commentary by co-hosts Andrew Chang and Marilyn Waite, of green economy endeavors that impact the world’s decarbonization efforts.
In Season 3 of China Cleantech, Marilyn and Andrew interview: