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Chinese energy interests in Illinois

November 11, 2009

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl

President and Vice President

Illinois Renewable Energy Association

We were asked by the 21st Century Institute in Oak Brook to host a delegation of 20 visitors from the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Statistics in October. They were interested in learning about U.S. energy-related topics and gaining an understanding of the structure, function and operation of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA).

We were pleasantly surprised by interest in the IREA, as visiting groups are usually most interested in visiting renewable energy facilities. For example, the Japanese Mitsubishi engineers who visited several years ago were specifically interested in ethanol production.

The delegation from China was composed of both men and women officials with special interests in energy statistics. Only a few could converse in English. Communication was facilitated by Apollo Luo, the institute’s program director.

We hosted them at the new, energy-efficient Kickapoo Center on Limekiln Road just west of Oregon, Ill. It seemed an appropriate location to illustrate energy efficiency while capturing energy from the sun and an earth tube. We also reported on Bill Miller of the Department of Energy’s efforts to document the performance of a metal solar roof system in cooperation with its designer Victor Zaderej.

We explained the functioning of the energy-efficient building and pointed out its green features. We also showed slides of other energy-efficient buildings and solar and wind installations, and answered questions about the IREA, its purpose, function and financing.

Some of the delegates realized their energy plans had not placed enough emphasis on energy efficiency. They asked whether we would be willing to visit Shanghai and discuss it with them.

They were also interested in the cost of building the Kickapoo Center and the price of farmland.

We then toured the Adkins Energy plant in Lena with Mert Green. Keen interest was shown in the ethanol plant’s operation, its cost, economic success and government subsidies. They were interested in the number of hours plant employees worked per week. Luo pointed out that China has only a limited interest in ethanol at this time because of the high cost of building such plants.

The interest in renewable energy and efficiency shown by the Chinese delegation is consistent with Chinese President Hu Jintau’s September call for increased joint work to address at the U.N. Climate Change Summit. By 2020, China expects to increase the use of renewable energy and nuclear power to 15 percent of total electrical consumption. They will increase carbon sinks by planting forest stock. Their efforts to develop a green economy will be assisted through research, development and dissemination of climate-friendly technologies.

According to a 2008 report from the International Energy Agency, about 30 percent of Chinese energy use and 35 percent of CO2 emissions from production of export goods are the result of a heavy reliance on coal-powered plants. As American and European corporate interests moved factories to China and India, they shifted global pollution to Asia and left behind decimated national economies.

We were pleased to contribute to the growing Chinese interest in renewable energy and efficiency. With its existing infrastructure, Shanghai, a city of 20 million, faces an immense challenge in attempting to redirect its development toward a more sustainable path.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the November 11-17, 2009 issue

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