China plans African ventures

Updated: 2011-06-08 11:00

(China Daily)

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China plans African ventures

Chinese solar panel producers at an energy trade show in Johannesburg, South Africa. China plans to build 100 clean-energy projects on the African continent. [Photo/Agencies]

Proposed solar program to help manufacturers tap new markets

ROME / BEIJING - China, the world's biggest maker of solar panels, plans to build power projects using the devices in 40 African nations, aiming to cut the continent's reliance on fossil fuels and open a new market for Chinese manufacturers.

The program, which may require about $100 million in investment, will use competitive bidding and Chinese-made panels, said Sun Guangbin, secretary-general of photovoltaic products at the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Machinery and Electronic Products.

The country is branching into clean energy after investing $10 billion in Africa last year, where its traditional targets have been oil, minerals and construction.

That will help feed China's burgeoning solar industry, led by JA Solar Holdings Co and Suntech Power Holdings Co, the world's largest makers of solar cells used in photovoltaic panels, which turn sunlight into electricity.

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"China needs emerging markets to purchase their solar products, and Africa could be one of them," Sun said.

"This month, we'll begin investigating in Africa to determine a suitable project in each country, such as installing solar panels on the roofs of schools and hospitals."

Renewable energy is one of the seven "strategic emerging" industries that the Chinese government has said it will promote in the next five years.

Each installation will cost about 10 million to 20 million yuan ($1.5 million to $3 million), Sun said.

The chamber was authorized by China's Ministry of Commerce to manage the inspection of sites with a group of engineers, he said. Terms of the tender process weren't disclosed.

South Africa, the continent's biggest economy, derives about 90 percent of its power from coal, one of the most heavily polluting ways of generating electricity.

Developing renewable energy is one of eight measures that Premier Wen Jiabao proposed in 2009 to aid Africa. China plans to build 100 clean-energy projects on the African continent.

The export-value growth of Chinese photovoltaic products, primarily solar cells, will slow to about 60 percent this year, compared with a 107 percent increase last year, Sun said.

This is due to an oversupply after European nations, the biggest market in recent years, cut subsidies for solar farms, Sun added.

Monocrystalline cell prices declined 7.5 percent last month to $1.14 for each watt from April and multicrystalline cells were down 8.7 percent at $1.09 a watt, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

China supplies the majority of the solar panels sold globally, according to the London-based research company.

It bought less than 3 percent of the 18.5 gigawatts in estimated worldwide panel sales for its domestic projects last year.


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