China Gives Higher Prices for Waste-to-Energy Over Coal

China will pay double for electricity coming from waste-to-energy plants than from coal plants, in an effort to move away from coal, reports Bloomberg.

Electricity from waste-to-energy plants will be priced at $0.10 (0.65 yuan) per kilowatt-hour, and half that for coal (0.3-0.4 yuan). In fact, waste-to-energy plants are getting a slightly higher price than wind-generated electricity, which gets 0.61 yuan. Solar still gets the highest price – 1 yuan per kilowatt-hour.

This is the first time that China has established a fixed price for waste-to-energy plants. 

We understand this is part of China’s move towards cutting  carbon emissions 17% by 2015, and to get 15% of its energy from non-fossil fuels by 2020, under its 5-Year Plan. In December, China raised its target for solar 50% to 15 GW by 2015.

Still, instead of burning those valuable materials in incinerators, wouldn’t it be better to recycle them? Perhaps they plan to separate out key metals and other materials first, but we haven’t heard about it.

A recent report from Stockholm Environment Institute shows that dwindling supplies of metals (and water for geothermal and solar CSP and biomass for fuels) could slow deployment of clean technologies by 2035.

Key metals include indium and tellurium used in thin-film solar, neodymium used for magnets in the wind industry, and lithium and cobalt used in batteries for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Last month, the EU, US and Japan filed complaints with the World Trade Organization that China is preventing exports to keep prices down for domestic manufacturers and force international companies to locate there.

China, which has 97% of the world’s rare earth mines, says it’s restricting exports to prevent rapid depletion and because of environmental concerns.

To consolidate its rare earth industry, China just created a 155 -member association that reports to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which regulates rare earth production.

China wants to phase out small smelters and give a bigger stake to large companies to increase environmental protection in a notoriously toxic industry.

"China will continue to clean up the rare earth industry, expand rare earth environmental controls, strengthen environmental checks, and implement stricter rare earth environmental policies," Su Bo, an industry vice minister, told Xinhua news agency.

The association will also promote international exchange and help Chinese companies handle trade disputes. 

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