(Corrects GE executive's surname to Norbom, paragraphs 14 and
(Adds Vice Premier Li quote, paragraphs 2-3)
By Doug Palmer
BEIJING May 20 U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary
Locke began three days of meetings in Beijing on Thursday to
push open doors for American clean energy companies looking to
cash in on China's fast growing renewables market.
Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang met with Locke's delegation
of business executives from 24 clean energy companies and
sounded a positive note, despite U.S. concerns about Chinese
policies that favour domestic firms.
"I'm sure the visit will lay the foundation for the
possibility of winning a big deal in the clean energy field and
securing market proportions in China," Li said.
While legislation aimed at cutting U.S. greenhouse gas
emissions and dependence on fossil fuels is mired in Congress,
China's central planners are pushing ahead with projects to
expand solar and wind power, lay thousands of miles of new
transmission lines and adopt "Smart Grid" technology to
distribute power more efficiently.
"I would have to say that China is leading us in that
effort," said Martha Duggan, vice president of United Solar
The Michigan-based manufacturer, a unit of Energy
Conversion Devices, has a joint venture with an electricity
provider in Tianjin to convert solar cells manufactured in the
United States to solar modules for use in China.
"We're really just getting started here. But we see a lot
of opportunity," Duggan said, adding that her company planned
to sign "a fairly significant order" on Saturday.
The diverse group trade group includes major firms like
General Electric, which has already sold over 800 wind turbines
to China, and First Solar Inc, the world's leading and
lowest-cost producer of solar photovoltaic cells.
Less well-known firms include Principle Power, based in
Locke's home state of Washington, which is pitching a floating
support structure that would allow off-shore wind farms to be
placed in previously inaccessible locations where water depths
exceed 50 metres.
Locke, who began the trade mission Monday in Hong Kong,
touts such joint ventures as "win-win" opportunities to create
new jobs in both countries and help reduce greenhouse gas
"When climate change starts creating more deserts and less
water in northwest China and in the southwest United States,
and when rising sea levels flood Manhattan or Pudong in
Shanghai, you had better believe climate change is going to be
bad for business," he said on Wednesday in Shanghai.
He has twinned his optimism about the opportunities for
U.S. clean energy exports to China with warnings about Beijing
policies that appear to be aimed at keeping out foreign firms.
At nearly every event, he has argued it is in China's
long-term interest to use "the best technology," no matter if
it is foreign or home grown.
A meeting at China's Ministry of Science and Technology
last week had eased some of GE's concerns about Chinese
"indigenous innovation policies," said Mark Norbom, chief
executive officer of GE Greater China.
"It likely won't address every problem completely, but I
think it will be better that what we've seen before that,"
Norbom said, referring to China's recently released revised
Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will raise
U.S. concerns about the indigenous innovation policy at the
U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting beginning on
Monday in Beijing.
U.S. officials cautioned against expecting a breakthrough
announcement on the issue next week.
(Editing by Lucy Hornby)