SciDev.Net reports that China plans to train 10,000 technicians from the developing world on the deployment and use of solar power technologies over the next five years.
Describing the plans, Xi Wenhua, director of both the Institute of Natural Energy (INE) and the China Solar Energy Information Centre, told SciDev.Net the training will include programmes on small-scale solar power generation and solar-powered heating and irrigation.
According to Xi, China has some of the most advanced and practical solar energy technologies of any developing country. While admitting that China’s solar energy technologies are less efficient than those of Germany, Japan and the United States, he adds that the cost of producing them is much lower than in industrialised countries.
The costs of solar technologies continue to drop in China as it pushes forward in its plan to get 5% of the country’s power from solar within ten years. But the efficiency and cost of the solar power systems may be secondary to the relationships being built between China and these various developing nations in the realm of alternative power. Remember the observation in last week’s post about BusinessWeek: Someone is going to make a lot of money off of the response to global warming and the shift away from fossil fuels. China is positioning itself to be that someone not by trying to skim the cream of American, Japanese, and European markets, but by becoming the business partner of choice for the myriad nations that will need power to support development but don’t have an existing fossil fuel-based power infrastructure already deeply entrenched.
The value to both China and the developing nations is evident: China gets larger markets for its solar power systems and wraps up a technology relationship with these nascent markets which could last decades, while the developing countries get experience with useful technology and the beginnings of a power infrastructure well-suited for the increasingly diverse and distributed nature of 21st century electricity networks.