US, China energy firms to ink deals during Hu visit

Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:29pm EST

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* China, U.S. deals involve renewable energy, clean coal

* China passes U.S. in installed wind power capacity

By Tom Doggett and Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Jan 14 (Reuters) - American and Chinese energy companies will sign several commercial agreements next week during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to Washington, a U.S. official said on Friday.

The deals will involve trade in renewable energy, an area where the United States and China are competing for market share.

The agreements could also include biofuels and clean coal technology. Cleaner burning coal would help slow output of greenhouse gas emissions in the world's top two emitters of gases linked to global warming.

The U.S. Energy Department would not name the companies that will sign the agreements, or say how much the deals are worth.

Steven Chu, the U.S. energy secretary, and his Chinese counterpart, will oversee the agreement signings next Tuesday at a conference in Washington.

China recently surpassed the United States as the country with the largest amount of installed wind power capacity, according to the environmental group Greenpeace.

One new wind turbine is built somewhere in the world every 30 minutes, with one in three of them installed in China, the environmental group says.

As the clean energy race heats up, tensions between the China and the United States on trade are rising. The United Steelworkers union accuses China of using illegal subsidies and other trade distorting policies to create jobs in its clean energy business, costing U.S jobs. [ID:nN13294072]

CHINA LOOKS TO INVEST IN U.S.

Besides next week's agreements, China in general is looking to invest in U.S. energy market opportunities.

Kate Gordon, a vice president for energy policy at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, said China may invest in U.S. energy in ways that could add jobs to the U.S. economy and in some ways that could take away jobs.

Some Chinese electric car, wind and solar companies are thinking about coming to the United States to build manufacturing plants.

"Those investments are pretty much just only positive, those are job creating investments," Gordon said.

But China may also be interested in buying American companies that have not yet licensed their technology. "One of the things we have been seeing ... is a lot of outreach to labs to try to buy technology before it has been licensed and get the technology to move wholesale to China for development."

Another area of Chinese interest in U.S. energy is coal. China's coal demand is rising while U.S. demand may fall as natural gas output rises and as Washington clamps down on pollution.

With China's booming economy and growing middle class boosting power demand there, U.S. companies also hope to export clean coal technologies to the Asian giant.

North Carolina-based utility Duke Energy (DUK.N), whose Chief Executive Jim Rogers will attend next week's energy conference, previously signed a deal with China to develop smart electricity grids and capture emissions from coal-fired power plants. (Reporting by Tom Doggett and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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