Job creation through collaboration


Guest post by CC Huang, the Professional Association for China’s Environment

The Woodrow Wilson Center recently hosted a panel discussion on how US-China cooperation in the power sector could be an economic win-win situation for both countries. Presentations pointed out that the United States and China share many similar characteristics in terms of energy, such as a dependency on coal (US: 48%, China: 82%), oil, and the huge investments needed in power and electricity in both countries.

Rather than merely pointing out how the United States is lagging behind in clean-energy investment, or articulating all the reasons why China is so much more efficient and pragmatic, a report by energy consultancy Garten Rothkopf provided constructive advice on how the United States and China can collaborate in pushing for both clean energy and job creation.

Here is a list of four possible technology areas in which US-China cooperation would lead to job creation in both countries.  

IGCC with carbon capture

Direct jobs: US: 19,715 jobs at US$23 to US$40/hour / China: 35, 053 jobs at US$2.70 to US$3.05/hr.  

Total jobs: US: 40, 950 jobs at US$23 to US$40/hour / China: 136,636 jobs at US$2.70 to US$3.05/hr.  

IGCC (Integrated gasification combined cycle) turns coal into gas-synthesis gas and makes re-usable byproducts out of pollutants. Not only does this result in lower emissions of sulfur dioxide, particulates and mercury, it also results in improved efficiency in contrast to conventional pulverised coal. US-China cooperation would lead to US$5 billion in total investment. As Garten Rothkopf’s report states: “China would acquire critical technology transfer and know-how, while the United States would gain the opportunity to scale the learning curve, applying knowledge to the US market.” 

Utility-scale solar PV

Direct jobs: US: 9,880 jobs at US$15 to US$41/hour / China: 4,820 jobs at US$1.50 to US$3/hr. 

Total jobs: US: 18,772 jobs at US$15 to US$41/hr / China: 18,798 jobs at US$1.50 to US$3/hr.

This form of energy comes in two types: photovoltaic and thermal solar. US-China cooperation could potentially lead to 400 megawatts of additional energy capacity through constructing utility-scale solar power plants in the United States. Also, as Michael Levi argues in an article for the Council on Foreign relations, China and the US have their own strengths in different stages of the solar value chain. China is competitive in the two later stages (cell production and module assembly) which accounts for 18% of the profit, while the US is competitive in the two earlier stages (silicon purification and ingot and water manufacturing) which accounts for 82% of the profit.

Clean-coal technologies

Direct jobs: US: 23,430 jobs at US$23 to US$51/ hour / China: 78,810 jobs US$1.50 to US$3.05/hour. 

Total jobs: US: 44,517 jobs at US$23 – US$51/hour / China: 307,360 jobs at US$1.50 to US$3.05/hour.

Cooperation in this area would benefit US-based firms by expanding their exports, flattening the learning curve, and make constructing new plants cheaper. China would benefit by gaining up-to-date technology in heat-resistant materials. As the New York Times points out, China has become one of the world’s leaders in cleaner coal power plants by thoroughly grasping the technology and reducing the cost. The highest efficiency of plants in China is 44%, while in the US it is 40%.  

Smart grid

Direct jobs: US: 3,374 jobs at US$20 to US$45/hour / China: 172 jobs at US$1.52 to US$2.70 /hour.  

Total jobs: US: 6,410 jobs at US$20 to US$45/hour / China: 671 jobs at US$1.52 to US$2.70 /hour.

Two million smart grid meters could be developed between the US and China with US$1.4 billion in total investments. The US would provide the “technology and expertise”, while China would provide “meter manufacturing and access to a burgeoning US market.” China plans to invest US$586 million in smart-grid construction by 2020, according to State Grid of China.

Download the full report by Garten Rothkopf.