Teaming up with China on clean tech

Amid all the worry in the US about China winning the clean tech race, Duke Energy seems to be unusually pro-active about teaming up with Chinese energy companies (or at least, about publicising it).

Anyhow, Duke has announced another China deal, this time with ENN Group. According to the press release, the two will team up to “to develop, own and operate the solar projects” in the US. They will focus on utility-scale solar farms and commercial distributed solar projects; both will be photo-voltaic.

But what does it mean to collaborate with China? This latest announcement, although lacking in numbers, advances an announcement back in September at the Clinton Global Initiative that Duke and ENN signed an agreement that specifically mentioned solar developments. But it also alluded to sharing technology.

From the ENN September announcement:

It also encompasses joint technology development in coal-based clean energy, biofuels, natural gas, smart grid, energy efficiency and carbon-capturing algae.

It also follows an August MOU between Duke and China Huaneng Group to share information on clean energy technology:

Under the MOU, top executives from both Duke Energy and China Huaneng Group will launch a series of meetings to exchange information and explore potential long-term cooperative initiatives to reduce coal plant emissions and develop other renewable sources of electricity generation.

One key focal point will be emerging cleaner-coal technologies including carbon capture and sequestration and coal gasification.

Duke has been furiously pursuing clean technology projects, including CCS, and its chief executive Jim Rogers has come out in favour of cap and trade while many in the US energy industry are still lobbying hard against both the climate change bills that are very slowly making their way through Congress.

But planning big projects that use equipment supplied by Chinese companies is the easy part. The more interesting promise of both of these MOUs is that there will be some kind of technology-sharing between Duke and the two Chinese companies.  If it comes to fruition, will these sorts of deals be enough to meet the Chinese desire to access western clean technology, or assuage the American fears that China will ‘win the clean tech race’?

Related links:
China’s energy landscape: room enough for everyone?
(FT Energy Source, 10/08/09)

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