Evergreen Solar Shows Tension in China, U.S. Clean-Energy Ties
2011-01-18 05:00:02.2 GMT
By Kim Chipman
Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Evergreen Solar Inc. won't be on the
speaker's list today when Chinese and U.S. business executives
and government officials gather in Washington for a conference
on "clean-energy cooperation."
The maker of thin polysilicon wafers for solar panels said
last week it will close a factory in Devens, Massachusetts,
because it can't compete with the low manufacturing costs of
Chinese companies that also get "considerable government and
The two-day conference sponsored by the Brookings
Institution is timed for the visit of Chinese President Hu
Jintao, who is meeting with President Barack Obama, lawmakers
and business leaders to strengthen commercial ties, including in
clean energy. Competition for global leadership in wind and
solar power undercuts the vows of cooperation, according to
Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations.
"It's impossible to escape the connection between the
fights we are having on the commercial side and the effort that
governments are putting into forging cooperation," Levi, senior
fellow for energy and environment at the council in New York,
said in an interview. "Ultimately, the case the U.S. government
is making for cooperation is a commercial case, and that sits
uncomfortably with the reality of industry tensions."
China's move toward leadership in wind and solar power has
brought protests in the U.S. The Obama administration filed a
complaint with the World Trade Organization last month
contending China provides unfair subsidies to its wind-power
industry. Plans for a Chinese-backed wind farm in Texas raised
objections from lawmakers last year.
China invested $51.1 billion in wind turbines, solar panels
and other low-carbon energy technologies last year through
government and business, more than any other country, according
to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The U.S., the world's largest
economy followed by China, ranked second with $45.9 billion.
"Some in the U.S. are growing rather concerned that the
economic opportunity presented by clean energy has left the
station and China got on it but the U.S. didn't," Ethan
Zindler, a Washington-based analyst with Bloomberg New Energy
Finance, said in an interview.
China, the world's biggest power producer, has the most
installed wind capacity, surpassing the U.S. for the first time,
the environmental group Greenpeace International said last week,
citing its own data.
China was also the No. 1 exporter of solar-photovoltaic
cells and modules last year, supplying 38 percent of the
technology worldwide, compared with 6 percent for the U.S.,
according to Paula Mints, an analyst at Navigant Consulting
Inc., an independent research firm based in Chicago. The world
market for solar photovoltaic cells and modules is about $30
Obama has championed clean-energy technology as a way to
create U.S. jobs while combating climate change. U.S. Energy
Secretary Stephen Chu, who is scheduled to speak at the
Brookings conference tonight, has said the U.S. risks losing its
status as an economic superpower if it fails to compete with
China and other countries in clean energy.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke last week cited examples
of U.S.-Chinese cooperation including Boeing Co.'s partnership
with Air China Ltd. and PetroChina Co. to research aviation
biofuels that don't rely on food crops and Duke Energy Corp.'s
agreement for joint research with Huaneng Power International
Inc., China's largest energy company.
"For every story like Duke Energy's or Boeing's, there are
many more that are never written," Locke said in a Jan. 13
speech in Washington, citing "significant concern shared by
business all around the world" about barriers to doing business
Evergreen of Marlboro, Massachusetts, has said it is
closing one of its two U.S. plants while continuing to operate a
polysilicon wafer factory in Wuhan, China. Evergreen has dropped
68 percent in Nasdaq Stock Market trading in the last 12 months.
The plant being closed could easily outperform competitors
if the U.S. had long-term incentives for renewable energy and
domestic-content requirements for the use of U.S.-made
equipment, said Michael McCarthy, a spokesman for Evergreen.
The U.S. has fallen behind China in clean energy partly for
lack of a clear long-term strategy, said Dan Rosen, principal at
the Rhodium Group, a New York-based economic research firm that
specializes in China.
Chinese companies invested $4.2 billion to $5 billion in
U.S. projects and acquisitions of all types, an increase from
$1.73 billion in 2009, Rosen said, citing a Rhodium study to be
released next month. Only a fraction was invested in clean
energy, he said.
Obama-backed legislation to cap greenhouse gases in the
U.S. failed in the Senate last year, and efforts to pass a
national standard requiring the use of renewable energy hasn't
gained sufficient support to advance in Congress.
Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric Co.'s chief executive
officer and an advocate for U.S. legislation limiting carbon
emissions, is among business leaders scheduled to meet with
Obama and Hu this week.
Among scheduled speakers at the Brookings Institution
conference today and tomorrow are Lou Jiwei, chairman of the
China Investment Corp., Zhang Xiwu, chairman of the China
Shenhua Energy Co., the country's biggest coal producer, and Jim
Rogers, CEO of U.S.-based Duke Energy Corp.
For Related News and Information:
Renewable-energy menu: RENE <GO>
Most-read environmental news: MNI ENV <GO>
Carbon menu: EMIS <GO>
For emissions-market news:
NI ENVMARKET <GO>
--With assistance from Michael Forsythe in Beijing. Editors:
Larry Liebert, Joe Winski
To contact the reporters on this story:
Kim Chipman in Washington at +1-202-624-1927 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Larry Liebert at +1-202-624-1927 or