China will invest $175 billion in environmental protection in the next five years, according to the Commerce Dept.
China invested $12 billion in renewable energy in 2007. Reaching wind energy targets alone (30 gigawatts by 2020 from 1.2 GW in 2005) will require $21-28 billion in investment.
Horrific Environmental Cost Long-Term Driver
Only a few companies will get a direct boost from the Olympics.
One of these is Echelon Corporation which installed a smart lighting control system for the Olympic Village, home to 23,000 athletes and team officials.
“Anything from the Olympic Village if it works out well is a great showcase to bring to other places” in China, says Anders Alexsson, a SVP of marketing, who says only 10 percent of the local energy management demand is currently being satisfied.
But China’s need for clean tech has long-term drivers, namely addressing the extensive collateral damage to the environment that accompanies phenomenal growth.
China experts estimate roughly half of the dozens of serious protests that occur in China monthly are related to pollution or contamination.
“These are not only economic and social problems they are actually political problems that the Chinese leadership at the national and local level understand need to be addressed and that’s the kind of demand we really like as investors in the long term,” explains Jeffrey Leonard, CEO of the Global Environment Fund (GEF) he founded in 1990, which now has close to $1 billion invested in clean tech, about a tenth of it in China.
The upshot, Leonard says, is that China's increasingly assertive middle class - now estimated at 350 million – is demanding clean air, water and safe food.
Because China is still at a rudimentary level – most coal plants, for instance, still don’t filter smog-causing particulates, which has been mandatory in the US for decades – much of the clean tech market is local.