Germany and China look to the sun for energy answers
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer opened what is billed as the biggest solar collector plant in the world in a
bid to help promote renewable resources as China faces an energy crisis. The site in this eastern Chinese city, run
by a Sino-German joint venture, produces solar collectors to heat water -- a market that promises massive electricity
savings in a country struggling with a potential shortfall this year of 30 mm kW.
"China has recognised the urgent ecological issues that go along with strong economic growth and the increasing need for energy," Fischer told German business representatives. "I am especially happy that China has made decisive steps towards using renewable energy and the development of a more environmentally friendly energy sector."
China, the world's largest solar energy market, is facing its worst energy crisis since the 1980s, set off by the
rapid development of power-hungry industries such as auto, iron and steel, as well as rapid urbanization and a rise
in living standards. Analysts fear enduring shortages could hobble the burgeoning economic growth of the world's most
Energy production relative to buying power is four times more expensive here than in other industrialised nations, while its coal deposits are drastically depleted and oil imports soaring. And the symptoms of the shortages are visible throughout China.
In order to feed Beijing's growing energy needs, frequent blackouts occur across the country. Many companies have
begun working at night and on weekends to avoid high-use periods and more than 6,000 companies in Beijing have
ordered one-week paid vacations this summer to save energy.
Tourists, too, are paying the price with hotels setting thermostats at 26 degrees Celsius to cut the use of air conditioning.
China won high praise for its drive to promote cleaner, renewable energy at an international conference in the
western German city of Bonn in June, with plans to have renewables account for 10 % of power supplies by 2010 and 12
% by 2020. Germany sees the plant, Shangdong Linuo Paradigma, as the largest new venture in a massive untapped
"There are extraordinary opportunities here also for German companies, not only for large corporations but also for mid-sized and small firms," said Fischer.
The minister, who is travelling with a delegation of German firms investing in ecological energy sources, leaves for Bangladesh later.