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Testing fresh ground for clean tech development

2013-07-08 10:19 China Daily Web Editor: qindexing
As China's urbanization process speeds up, European companies see enormous opportunities in green energy and other solutions. [Photo/China Daily]

As China's urbanization process speeds up, European companies see enormous opportunities in green energy and other solutions. [Photo/China Daily]

EU firms eye huge opportunities in the expanding Chinese market

China's rapid urbanization has provided an ideal market for the world's pioneering technologies on urban solutions to develop and commercialize in the country before being launched globally.

Research and development work relating to the development of eco-cities, smart cities and clean energy by foreign companies is booming in China, due to large market demand and government policy support.

"Chinese cities have a very good environment for R&D, they are rapidly changing, and there is a lot of desire for innovation and wanting to know about the latest developments," says Chris Twinn, senior sustainability consultant with Arup, a UK-headquartered engineering consultancy.

Developing new solutions for eco-city development has been one of the most promising areas for companies, says Twinn. The concept of the eco-city, founded in 1975 in the United States, is used to describe cities built in balance with nature.

China has ambitious plans to build 300 eco-cities, Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said at the 2011 International Green and Energy-Efficient Building & New Technologies and Products Expo in Beijing.

Already, many Western companies are developing new solutions in China's largest eco-city, the Tianjin Eco City, just over an hour from Beijing by train. Sweden's Envac Environmental Technology Co Ltd, for example, uses large, underground pneumatic tubes to distribute waste to a centralized processing facility, to free cities from odorous trash bins and waste transfer vehicles.

Since founding this technology in the 1960s, Envac has worked on many projects globally but the Tianjin eco-city project presented the new challenge of combining waste collected by different suppliers into central system, says Jonas Tornblom, senior vice-president of corporate marketing and public affairs.

Envac was supplying technology for waste collection over an area of 8 square kilometers in Tianjin Eco City's city center, but there were also other suppliers collecting waste from other areas in the eco-city.

"We gave specifications to other waste collecting companies, so that their system could become compatible with ours," Tornblom says.

Tornblom says that Envac has recently taken up a project in Sweden, where the client requires it to combine waste collected from different companies into the same system, and he believes the Tianjin Eco City experience helped.

Other projects in Tianjin Eco City on trial include a low-energy lighting system from Philips and electric driverless cars by General Motors.

Twinn says that Arup is currently trialing innovative energy-efficient building solutions in Hong Kong, which he considers a potential market for China's eco-cities.

These integrated solutions may include features such as buildings designed to power tablets instead of personal computers, and replacing conventional lights with light-emitting diodes, he says.

"Currently, most of our buildings are designed to power personal computers, but nowadays tablets like iPads or big display screens are all becoming popular, but they only need a fraction of the energy to power because the amount of cooling and mechanical equipment needed is much smaller," Twinn says.

"Even now, we are seeing young people going to companies saying, 'Yes I'll come to work for you, but I want to bring my own tablets to use', so we can change buildings to adjust to people's habits and save costs and energies," Twinn says.

He says another possibility is replacing conventional lights with LEDs and also task lights that allow users to select the optimal level of brightness. "If they're looking at paper, they may want a higher level of brightness, but if they want to look at a screen, they may prefer lower levels," he says.

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