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Program 4
thumb_ae_wind.jpg  Watch Video - Energy  
 Above: Wind Power in India and the World's largest Solar farm in Spain  Click above to view Episode 4 in Low Resolution  
 

In this episode, we explore Asia's contributions to alternative energy and the business of green. We meet Tulsa Tanti, founder of Suzlon, India's growing and innovative wind power company. In Wuxi, China we explore the research and development practices of Suzlon, with pioneering Solar Power scientist and entrepreneur Dr Shi Zhengrong.  In Delhi we meet Novel Price winner Dr. Rajendra Pachaur, the head of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control. 

This program was first broadcast on California Public television in 2008.   Updated, it aired on Hong Kong ATV World on May 18, 2010.

A  full Transcript of the program is published below.   Unless otherwise noted narrations are by Lorraine Hahn and Rob McBride.


TRANSCRIPT:

Earth Factor Asia. With Lorraine Hahn

 Energy –  looking at the alternatives 

(effects wipe)

 Lorraine Hahn on camera Welcome to Earth Factor Asia. In this episode we’ll look at the energy challenges facing the fastest growing region in the world.  Solar power is one of the more promising sources, being promoted as a natural alternative in Asia. And as we’ll find out, China is taking the global lead in producing solar panels. But the massive energy demands of Asia’s expanding economies mean an increasing reliance on traditional fuels. And as Rob McBride reports from remote inner Mongolia, in China’s case coal is still King. 

Over the rolling landscape of Inner Mongolia - a

coal-blackened road across the white frigid wastes.

 

This highway, constantly busy with trucks, links the coal mines in this remote corner of China with the rail junctions that lead to the rest of the country.

 

Our destination is one particular colliery - Nalin Miao Number 2.

 

At the time of our visit, the whole of China is locked in its worst winter freeze for decades, and is in desperate need of fuel.

 

When we arrive, we find the trucks are backed up awaiting their turn to fill with coal, as fast as it comes out of the ground.

McBride on Camera:
 
Day and night, the trucks keep coming in a steady stream. Given China's need for energy, every lump that comes out of the ground here, is in demand. 

At a time when the world is obsessed with finding energy alternatives, China finds itself with no alternative but to exploit its vast coal reserves.

 

A moderate sized mine, this pit normally operates at

13-thousand tons per day.

 

At the moment, production is topping 17 to 18 thousand tons, with all shifts working overtime.

 

China's coal mines are notorious, making the headlines with almost daily tragedies.

 

But this mine, opened in 2006, is considered one of the most modern here.

 

With mine manager, Zhang Ming Liang, we're off to see for ourselves the coal that's helping to fuel this vast country's growth.

 

Highly automated, there are relatively few miners underground.

 

Walking down darkened tunnels and picking our way between the hydraulic supports, we eventually find ourselves on the coal face itself.

 

Just a short distance in front of us, the shearing teeth of powerful mining equipment, ripping coal from the workface - and sending shards of smaller lumps flying back at us.

 

Efficiently extracting hundreds of tons per hour, the company is happy to show off its operation.

 

The company is prouder still of its safety record.

 

Not one death since the mine opened, despite the inherent dangers of coal mining.


Zhang Ming Liang,

Coal Mining Manager
 

Safety is our number one consideration. Our company has a slogan that we would rather lose one million tons of coal, than lose the life of a single miner.  

This mining company has invested heavily in safety.

 

In the colliery's control room, the electronic message board, delivers the latest safety pronouncements.

 

As Chinese mining becomes more modern, so it's using more technology.

 

But employing better technology when that coal is burned is something that concerns a growing number of energy experts and scientists.

Kurt Yaeger,

World Energy Council,

 

China is building on the order of a new thousand megawatt equivalent power plant every week. And is expected to triple its coal use over the next several decades. So if we are continuing to use the same technology that we are using today, or China is using today, that will produce immense quantities of green house gases principally carbon dioxide.

 

More and more overseas experts are now partnering with China to share clean coal technology.

 

Eddy Chui,

Senior Scientist

So our role in the government is to make sure that if we have to use it, then let’s use it as cleanly and efficiently as possible. What options does a country like ours, in Canada, or China, have at their disposal. So although coal has this lingering bad reputation, believe it or not, clean coal technologies do exist. And there are technologies that can be deployed on a wide scale today, that can create what we call near zero emissions.

 

Carbon capture and storage certainly show potential. But just how workable as a solution is still hotly debated.

 

What no one disputes is the value of using technology to burn coal as efficiently as possible.

 

So basically you are using less fuel to generate the same amount of power. Not only do you have cost savings, you also produce less emissions to the environment.

 

Back at Nalin Miao Number 2, in the communal dormitories, there are more immediate concerns.

 

The last chance to catch up on sleep before the change of shift. 

 

Despite sharing up to twelve beds to a room, these miners are considered well-off, in terms of conditions and pay.

 

Liu Ying Liang has a wife and two children whom he sends money home to.

 

I make about 500 US dollars a month. My living expenses here are about 100 dollars. So we manage to save a few hundred a month.

 

Like thousands of others in mining, Liu can be thankful to coal.

 

In this inhospitable part of China, it provides wealth in a land which would otherwise yield very little.

 

The mining company which employs him, the Yitai mining group, is headquartered in the nearby city of Eerdosi.

 

It has quickly become one of the most important mining towns in the whole of China, with a per capita income higher than Shanghai or Beijing. 

 

And it’s where many of the miners live when they’re not on shift.

 

Working two weeks on and two weeks off, mine manager Tang Xiao Yun has just started his leave, relaxing at home with his wife and two daughters.

 

Born and raised in the town, they have seen its rapid development.


Tang Xiao Yun,Mine Manager,


 

In the old days, we didn’t have any tall buildings here. They were all one-storey. And when people went to work, they would take the shuttle bus or goby bike. But now maybe half of all the families here have their own car.  And that brings problems like the traffic congestion now is very bad. 

With China’s need for coal, Eerdosi’s continued prosperity is assured.

 

Just as the country’s growing demand for another fossil fuel, is having an international impact.

 

Oil.

 

From Kazakhstan in Central Asia to Africa, China’s global search for oil, is making its presence felt on a wider geo-political stage.

 

And China, like so many other energy-hungry economies has been stepping up its search for other energy options.

 

In doing so, nuclear energy – for so long unfashionable – is enjoying a resurgence.

 

This is the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in Southern China.

 

The country's first large commercial reactor, the site is still under development.

 

Four reactors are on stream. Two more are being built. And two more still are planned.

 

It's claimed when it's complete, the expansion will make this the biggest nuclear site in the world.


Steven Lau,

Senior Manager

Daya Bay Nuclear Power

 

It’s safe and clean energy.  Everybody who wants to come to Daya Bay to see here - no chimney from the reactor, no CO2 production. And it’s so clean, this is
a garden city. We have a lot of visitors every day and over the weekend you see people a students & general public touring around this platform.
 

Despite the upbeat assessment, the nuclear option remains controversial. But one of the less unpleasant, in a world running short on good ones. 

Kurt Yeager,

World Energy Fund,

 

I personally believe nuclear power is an important, clean option, and one where again the current designs are not adequate from a waste product or a proliferation stand point. But certainly we have the capability of designing, and engineering and installing a safe nuclear technology that could be used on a worldwide basis. And I believe that is essential to a sustainable energy future in this century. 

Certainly, China has decided that the solution lies in part with more plants like Daya Bay.

 
Steven Lau 
 

China has the intention to increase the energy mix and also diversity of energy. China has a plan to increase nuclear capacity to 4% by the year 2020 by then we will have 40 units running of this size and 18 units under construction.

 

Such a nuclear vision is still decades away. 

 

For now the miners at Nalin Miao Number 2, can count on long careers in coal.

 

Jobs for life for themselves.  For their sons too.

 

(music up and visual graphics wipe)

  In the great energy debate, focus has been on the problems in India and China, but increasingly each country is offering its own solution. Jim Laurie will introduce us to one of China’s richest men who made his money through solar power. But First to India where one company has found its riches in the power of the wind. 

(flute music up)

 

Slowing turning in the gathering breezes of the day, there are well over five hundred turbines in all. And will eventually number one thousand, making this the largest wind farm in Asia.

 

Rob McBride traveled to the heart of Maharashtra

State in the middle of India, to understand the importance of this project.

 

In every direction, the horizon bristles with

them - long slender blades effortlessly generating power, thanks to the prevailing winds that pass over this exposed piece of land.

 Helping to drive the wind is the intense Indian sun.As the land heats during the day, so it sets to work the thermal currents, which in turn pull in cooler air, such as from the Arabian Sea, over there to the West. 

As an industry, wind farming has undergone a dramatic expansion in many parts of the world, but probably none as fast as the breakneck growth of Suzlon - the company behind this project.

 

Its founder, Tulsi Tanti, is a man who travels constantly.

 

I caught up with him between flights in Mumbai.


Tulsi TantiCEO

 
The growth is very important, and that’s why for the past four years, we have continuously one hundred percent growth year on year. So the priority is the growth, not just number and not just bottom line.
 

The industry has made him rich, but money, he insists has never been the motivator. The urgency of climate change has.

 

But Mr. Tanti stumbled into the business almost by chance. 

 

Originally in textiles, he invested in his first two wind turbines as a solution to his own needs.

 

And we installed the two wind turbines for our textile business and understand the economics and the feasibility of the business. But that was not enough for us. I realized why not it should be available for the whole sector, the whole country and now for the whole world.

 

At the centre of the site, are the production facilities where the giant turbines are made.

 

Still expensive compared to other forms of power generation, with very high initial investment, Suzlon can at least take advantage of India's cheaper production costs.

 

Coming off the production line and waiting to be

assembled, the sleek carbon fibre blades for the latest turbines to be erected here.

 

In some parts of the world, wind farming is controversial, I mean some people think these machines are an eyesore.  What do you think?

There are some parts of the developed world where some people feel, ‘I like the environment,I like the carbon-free green power. But I don’t like windmill in my back yard. You can do, but I don’t want.’  But in India and China, I have seen the different view.  The people and students are coming from different parts of the country to visit the wind farm. They want to see, ‘Yes, what is this? What are these machines? 

Certainly wind farming and agricultural farming seem to live side-by-side in harmony.

 

Lacking water, this land is not the most productive, but it does sustain a local population.

 

Bikanam Rao and his family harvest peanuts.

 

They had no complaints about the turbines they live amongst - their only grievance was when they might get supplied with some of the electricity from them.

 

For with all the power produced here, the supply depends upon the local grid, which struggles to keep up with demand.

 

In this village, the people go without power for up to twelve hours a day, and this is a community with growing electricity needs.

 

More and more appliances are appearing in homes.

 

And the Patils are among the several families here who can now boast a washing machine.

 Before, the women had to wash the clothes on a stone outside, but now this is where all the washing is done. We're very happy with the machine. It gets all the whites much cleaner than before. But inside the house, there's more. A fridge. 

The first in the village, but more will surely follow, as everyone else tries to emulate the Patils.

 

A whole village, probably using less electricity than one average American household. And all eagerly anticipating the day when they can use more.

 Compared to the global average, it is very, very low. And 22-percent of the environment pollution is coming from the US.  It’s not from India and China. But yes, tomorrow it will come from India and China, so now the challenge for the whole world is that, the population is so large - this earth’s resources is not enough.  

Still expensive compared with fossil fuels, greater subsidies and tax breaks are being urged for wind power.  But Mr. Tanti takes the opposite view - don’t subsidize us, tax them, the CO2 polluters.

 We don’t want any incentives or any taxes. We are strongly recommending that the CO2 tax should be applicable and should be charged to the conventional, then we are directly competitive. Because we are not calculating the value of the environment damage. So we strongly recommending to any part of the world and the political regulators, please stop this incentive and give the CO2 tax so it gives the balance to the development of the sector. Are you an environmentalist by philosophy, or a simple businessman who saw a great opportunity in a new growth business? I can say not any one, but it’s a combination of both, because if I want to take care of the environment, I need a business, and I need a liquidity. But both is required. By doing this business I am taking care of balance of both the sides.  So that’s giving a very good satisfaction to us.   

If harnessing the wind is Tulsi Tanti’s answer in India – another renewable energy champion - in China is banking on - the power of the sun.

 

He’s a photovoltaic engineer, turned billion dollar businessman - one of China’s richest.

 

Dr. Shi Zhengrong walks us through the research and development section of China’s biggest solar power company, the third largest maker of solar panels in the world.

 

What are the critical areas of research that you are going to devote most of your attention to in the future?

 

Dr. Shi Zhengrong,

CEO, Suntech Power


 
One area is to improve efficiency. A second is thin film.  

The science of solar energy is a work in progress.

 

Here they make millions of fragile silicon wafers, photo-electric cells which when assembled draw in light converting that to electricity.

 The trick now is to make these cells more sensitive: thin as film - to make the power generating process more efficient and the electricity produced cheaper. 

We need to drive the costs down of solar panels as quickly as possible. Solar manufacturing costs will continue to drop down. They will soon be lower than the electricity generated by coal, gas and oil.

 

Within seven years Dr. Shi believes solar electricity will cost about ten cents a kilowatt hour – cheaper than the alternatives.

 

The growth of sun power equipment so far is phenomenal. 

A 20 billion dollar business worldwide in 2006. By 2010 it’ll be worth 5 times that.  

 

Here in China, growth at Suntech is even faster.

 

The carefully kept teacups of the workers here. There were only a few hundred of them in 2001. Now there are nearly five thousand.

 

Founded with a six million dollar investment, Suntech has become a listed company worth more than six billion dollars today. And it happened within five years.

 

Clearly Dr. Shi believes the future of solar power is well bright.

 

Only solar is infinite supply. We believe solar will be one of the main energy supplies of the future, far ahead of wind and bio mass and other renewable energies.

 

Most of Suntech’s production is for European or American energy projects.

 

The biggest – this one in Southeastern Spain. The world’s largest solar farm producing enough electricity for 20 thousand homes. 

 

But for all his success, Dr. Shi, so far has found an uphill fight in his struggle to persuade the Chinese government to rely more on solar power.

 

Here in China support has been slow in coming.

 

We have been lobbying the government all the time. Solar energy is more expensive. We do need some subsidy or incentive for it to be economically viable. In Europe or the US, the government provides tax credits.

 

Still, Dr. Shi believes it is all a matter of time and education.

 

I always see myself as a pioneer working in the renewable energy industry. We know the urgency of the challenge that human beings are facing at this moment with global warming and climate change.

 

And that is an urgency that Dr. Shi wants to impress on his workers.

 

It’s why every new employee here - trapped on the company bus to and from work - is asked to watch a film by a certain Nobel laureate named Al Gore.

 

The purpose of asking my staff to watch this movie is to make them understand how important the job we are doing is for human society.

  

In looking for energy solutions that don’t add to climate change environmental scientists like Rajendra Pachauri find themselves increasingly in the spotlight.

 I met him at his office in Delhi. He shares the intergovernmental panel on climate change whose work has been recognized with the award of the Nobel Piece Prize. 

Rajendra Pachauri,

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


 
I think we in the developing world and certainly China and India have to use our collective genius in defining a path that suits our resource endowments.. What we need to do for our own good is to move towards a trajectory of growth which is based on much more efficient use of energy and therefore a lower intensity of energy development. Which I think is long overdue. We can’t possibly follow the same path that has been established by the developed countries.  When you look at the merits of developing alternative energy - whether it’s solar, nuclear, water, wind - these are expensive technologies and investments are hard to come by.  That’s absolutely true and I think one reason why they’re expensive is because I believe the world went to sleep in 1985 when oil prices crashed. And all the research and development expenditure which earlier was being focused on bringing down the costs of alternatives, improving the efficiency of renewable energy technologies - was just tossed out of the window. And that’s very unfortunate and I think the world has lost very valuable time in these last twenty-odd years. I hope we wake up now and start investing enough in research and development.  When you look at the energy sector here in India, which you are very closely linked with, what would work for India?  I really think this country needs to diversify its energy portfolio into much greater use of renewable energy over a period of time. And we have to develop a vision and exercise that vision. And that really should be the direction of our strategy.  

[Effects wipe]

 In all the debate on the best ways of creating energy, one thing everyone agrees on is we must make the most efficient use of it. On Earth Factor You we meet a man leading by example; making the business of greening his life’s passion. 

[Music up – animation EARTH FACTOR YOU]

  I’m Daniel Cheng. I’m the managing director for Dunwell environmental technology.  One of our main businesses in Hong Kong is to recycle used lubricants and we developed different technologies to make it efficient and cost-effective for Asia. We started with the distillation of used oil but we quickly found out that distillation is not really good for handling waste oil when you mix all these oils together.  This is what we started with: A big distillation plant with high temperature, a lot of piping, a lot of reactors. It’s quite complicated to maintain and operate. And after years of research we found a vibrating mechanism. That is much simpler. It’s a physical separation so we go away from the chemistry problem. This is how we recycle our oil now using our award-winning vibrating membrane technology.  We won awards around the world and now we have customers coming to us for this new technology. This is a used oil recycling module that we’re going to ship to Beijing. The first one has already been sent to Indonesia and the next one is going to go to Mongolia.  Environmental technology or “greening” - it has to work and we have to do it. And it’s not that difficult if we put our heart in it. That is the important thing. You have to have a heart. Don’t just use your head, use your heart to do things.  I have helped to set up a 1-1-1 program which stands for 1 factory and 1 year to do an environmental project. So we’re working together to educate factories. We have at least 80 000 factories cross the border and in China. How they can conserve energy, have cleaner production, less waste being generated -  better green management.  Associations, business groups and governments are all working together towards the same goal: To give us a better quality of life.  I’m Daniel Chang. It starts with us.   

And that’s it for this episode of Earth Factor Asia. I’m Lorraine Hahn. We’ll see again you next time.

 CREDITS

Director/Camera

Rob McBride

 

Additional camera

Ronnie Au ProducerChris Dobson Segment Producers:

Akanksha Sood

S. Nallamuthu

 

Research

Jian Yin

Shi Qiulei

Shannon Van Sant

Susanne Schmidt

 

Editor

Rob McBride

 

Online Editor

Cheuk Yan Kwok

 

Executive Producer

Jim Laurie

 

Production Facilities and Technical Support

Salon Films Hong Kong Ltd

 

This Program made possible in part through a generous contribution from the NOBLE TRUST of Hong Kong

 Copyright Focus Asia Productions Ltd. 2008


 
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