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The new space race? China, U.S. duel for cleantech leadership

Posting in Energy

The United States and China are in a race for cleantech supremacy akin to the space race in the 1960s, according to a report. The race is also a duel between economic models.

The United States and China are in a race for cleantech supremacy akin to the space race in the 1960s, according to a report from PwC.

This cleantech race has high stakes and will forge a new commercial diplomacy according to PwC, an accounting and consultant firm. PwC said in a report:

The potential scale and political urgency of these emerging industries—along with ambitious national targets for rollouts—bear a semblance of the Space Race of the 1960s. While cleantech companies in both countries are in many cases locked in head-to-head competition to become major players in these developments, there also exist intersections where US and Chinese companies are partnering in ways that play to each other’s strengths while closely aligning with national clean energy policies. Successful partnerships could potentially hold significant growth opportunities both within and beyond US and Chinese markets.

The report is worth a read and highlights a bevy of key points. Among the notable findings:

  • Incentives for clean tech investing has turned China into the world's largest market for wind turbines.
  • China products a third of all the solar panels, but installations in China are less than three percent of projects implemented around the globe. Those installations are likely to increase.
  • Water management is critical to China due to pollution.
  • Electric vehicle penetration in China is likely to leapfrog deployments in the U.S. and Europe.
  • U.S. companies can collaborate and profit from these cleantech opportunities in China.

Not-too-surprisingly the money is flowing into China's hot spots: Solar, transportation and smart grids.

What remains to be seen is how the U.S.-China cleantech race plays out. China can stimulate and dictate cleantech mandates much easier as a centrally-planned government. In the U.S., politics, not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) and legacy infrastructure are all hurdles to clear for cleantech deployments to accelerate.

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Larry Dignan


Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure