SCMP: China Offers Renewables and Cheap Nuclear to Poor Countries

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The South China Morning Post reports China is offering their clean energy and mass produced nuclear plant expertise to their Belt and Road partners. But past Chinese overseas mega projects in my opinion are a cautionary tale, for anyone thinking of accepting China’s offerings.

How China’s clean energy push could help the developing world give up fossil fuels

As a leader on renewable energy technologies, China should help belt-and-road and other developing nations achieve carbon goals, senior policymaker saysCountries like Bangladesh could gain from the green expertise of China, Germany, Britain and the US, researcher in Dhaka points out

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Published: 10:00am, 21 Nov, 2021

China could offer developing countries pathways to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, a senior environmental policymaker has said.

Li Junfeng, founding director of the National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC), said China should not only think about its own energy transition but also work with developing countries on their carbon neutrality goals.

Many breakthrough energy technologies of the past five decades, in nuclear and solar power, for instance, had been commercialised in China, Li told an environmental conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

“So we can set up programmes, together with developed countries, to help their energy transition, including countries in the Belt and Road Initiative and South-South cooperation programme,” he said.

As for nuclear energy, China is currently the only country capable of mass-producing third-generation reactors. A few of these are already in operation in the country, including the Hualong One. The reactor, at the Fuqing nuclear power plant in southeastern Fujian province, began commercial operations in January.

Read more: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3156754/how-chinas-clean-energy-push-could-help-developing-world-give

After the renewable energy disasters in Britain, Europe and Texas, its becoming pretty obvious to everyone except green diehards that renewables have no future as a baseload energy source, except perhaps in very remote areas.

However, before you get too enthusiastic about the idea of China providing cheap nuclear to poor countries, its worth reviewing some of China’s past Belt and Road projects, some of which in my opinion really stand out as bad faith deals.

One notorious example is the Revantador dam, built on the foothills of an active volcano in Ecuador. Predictably, the dam was silted up and cracked by almost continuous earthquakes within months of construction.

How could such a disastrous project be allowed to proceed? The answer appears to be massive corruption, a lot of government officials, including senior politicians in Ecuador, went to jail over the deal. But this doesn’t help Ecuador, which is struggling to service their enormous debt to China. I think its fair to say Ecuador now pretty much has to do whatever China tells them, or face the consequences of a massive debt default.

This problem does not seem localised to just Ecuador. While Revantador stands out as an unequivocal disaster, there appear to be many less blatant problem deals. For example, when I visited Vanuatu in 2019, every conversation with locals quickly turned to their anger at allegedly corrupt deals between China and the Vanuatu government, like the Vanuatu Convention Centre deal. Our taxi driver in Port Vila took us on a tour, pointed to the parliament and said “corruption house number one”, then at the nearby convention centre, and said “corruption house number two”, which gives you a fair idea of local feeling on the matter.

I have no doubt many poor countries will rush to embrace China’s cheap nuclear offering, they desperately need affordable electricity, and they have in my opinion been badly let down by Western suppliers. But if the cheap mass produced Chinese nuclear plants are anything like the Chinese Revantador dam project, lets just say I’m going to plan my overseas holidays more carefully in the future.

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November 22, 2021 at 12:13AM

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