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China, Europe go ecological

2013-12-30 11:27 China Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan
[Photo / China Daily]

[Photo / China Daily]

Partnerships are playing a key role in the greening of Chinese cities

Many Chinese cities are now focusing on improving air quality and providing smart services to their citizens to grow their municipal economies, while achieving the country's five-year plan targets for a 17 percent cut in carbon emissions and a 16 percent cut in energy consumption.

In cities where new models of sustainable urban planning recognize the role of energy saving and environmental protection as critical components, city officials are exploring new ways of financing, integrating and encouraging the use of innovative smart eco-technologies.

This evolution is mainly driven by China's rapid urbanization. About 250 million citizens will move from rural areas to cities by 2020.

New city models will take into account various social, economic and technological factors that together drive the creation of smart city and eco-city projects, creating business opportunities for Chinese and European companies and cities.

Information and communications technology companies provide the backbone for commercial operational infrastructures in smart cities. Such technology is infiltrating the entire value chain in production, operation, management, analysis and decision making.

New fields including building, mobility, healthcare and water dominate the national agenda. China's Ministry of Housing has selected about 200 pilot cities.

Vendors are now focusing on specific segments, such as Alibaba Group's smart government in Lishui, Schneider Electric SA's smart building in Liuzhou, or Itron's smart water, heat and gas meters in Tianjin. These ad-hoc projects are opportunistic, but they are designed to be duplicated and optimized for other cities around China. International Data Corporation in the US estimates the mainland's smart city market to be worth $10.8 billion (7.8 billion euros) this year and forecasts double-digit growth for the next five years.

With the current pace and scale of urbanization, China's eco-parks need to meet stringent energy-saving, resource efficiency and sustainable building standards.

The government aims to cut energy consumption by 65 percent in new buildings compared with existing ones. Eco-parks usually feature a residential park with green buildings, a business park with office space and research facilities, and a light industry park, representing the right mixture to attract investment.

Chinese mayors and developers are increasingly making agreements with their European counterparts to build green and healthy cities. Recent collaborations include: the Zhenjiang Sino-Swiss Ecological Industry Park, which will soon complete its Sino-Swiss R&D innovation center; the Qingdao Sino-German Ecopark, which is a pilot project between the Chinese and German governments to deepen cooperation in economies, business and technology; and the Beijing Sino-UK Green Building Park funded by China Vanke Co Ltd, China's largest residential real estate developer, featuring the best of British design, materials, construction products and technologies for sustainable homes.

China accounts for almost 42 percent of all new buildings under construction worldwide: 2 billion square meters of new buildings are constructed annually, with more than 40 percent of China's total energy consumption directly or indirectly connected to construction.

Cities are enhancing their infrastructures to include distributed renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind and geothermal, while also integrating utility grids to supply electricity, gas and water and cogenerate electricity and useful heat.

Business partnerships will keep forming between smart and eco small and medium-sized enterprises. Examples include PassivSystems of Britain and JinkoSolar of China introducing a complete smart home energy management solution into the Chinese market; or Prudent Energy of Beijing, a battery energy storage company co-invested by Idinvest Partners, acquiring Canadian technology to leverage China's low manufacturing costs and access to the world's largest wind power market.

Overall, China's electricity generation from renewable sources will account for more than 15 percent of total electricity generation by 2020.

We are seeing a new urban planning shift toward compact cities with sophisticated mobility systems that integrate multimodal systems.

Patrick Schuler is the founder of SmartEcoCity Partners and manages Idinvest Partners and EDF's Electranova Capital green smart-up portfolio in Asia. He is based in Shanghai. He spoke to Lukas Thibaut. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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