Carelessness and typos slowing China’s CDM approvals

China's climate change chief Gao Guangsheng

China’s climate change chief
Gao Guangsheng

Careless mistakes, spelling errors and misunderstanding of project application requirements are slowing the development of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) approvals in China, according to the China government’s top climate change official.

Gao Guangsheng, director general of the Office of National Leading Group on Climate Change is responsible for organizing the approval panels for China’s CDM applications – and said he is yet to see one project design document (PDD) without error.

“Every single PDD has a problem,” he said, speaking at the 2008 China Power Business Convention held in Beijing this week. “They all have mistakes, big or small, several or dozens.”

According to Gao, the most critical issue in PDD approval is quality. “Most problems are due to carelessness,” he said. “For example, typos, misspellings, those kinds of things.” Gao’s teams had returned applications where, for example, the latitude and longitude of the project was specified only down to minutes rather than seconds as required. “Or we see maps used which are not from China. We’re talking about projects in China, so the maps should be produced in China, should show the entire territory of China,” he said.

Such details may seem like small issues, but these oversights are leading to project file returns and lengthy delays on CDM approvals.

Bigger issues surround over-specifying on projects. “We see a lot of unnecessary redundancy and procedures,” said Gao, citing the example of a project which would require plant workers to pass CDM training through a specialist company. “I would ask them, ‘What do you train them in? Why?’ You are a project manager – the workers will not be doing CDM,” he said.

These are not small issues, said Gao, since a developer must follow its PDD designs to the letter. “Whatever they say they will do, they must do,” he said – there is no room for companies to add “gloss” in the hope it might bring favour to its approval.

Gao said he frequently saw applications relying on shared information and surveys. “Remember, we see all the project applications,” he said. “It’s very clear when someone has done a lot of cutting and pasting. We see a lot of PDDs using the same source file – even the figures are exactly the same, and this will delay approvals,” he said.

One issue which may cause difficulties for applicants is the price of power. “Many use a fixed price – but they need to provide better supporting reasons,” said Gao. “Sure, fixed price is kind of ‘safe’. But power pricing is usually very irregular, and you cannot use a fixed price without [detailed] supporting reasons.”

Other issues leading to a “return” stamp from Gao’s office included faulty approval procedures for the application itself. “We’ve seen hydro power project applications, which are supposed to be approved by the provincial government, only stamped by the county level government,” he said.

Gao also advises developers to spend time promoting their own expertise in their PDDs. “Are they qualified to do this project? If it’s not proven [in the PDD], we will need additional files.”

Last but not least, Gao is irritated when the government introduces new application forms yet applications arrive on old forms.

Gao’s comments came to a specialized audience of power developers at a two day seminar running alongside China’s largest electricity exhibition, Electric Power 2008. “I’m not complaining,” said Gao, of his comments regarding carelessness. “But I talk in the hope we can all improve on the quality of our work.”

Overall, Gao is extremely optimistic about the future of CDM development in China – he says the structural adjustment caused by the financial crisis and the government’s plans to boost domestic growth bode well for energy efficiency projects in particular.

“We are willing to approve projects,” he added. “But if the PDD doesn’t meet all the requirements, it will cost you more time.

About James Ockenden (300 Articles)
Writer, journalist and sustainability consultant with a passion for clean technology and public health. 25 years covering power and energy markets: former editor of Power Plant Technology, International Power Generation, Asian Electricity, Aircraft Economics, Energy Risk, Asia Risk, Benchmark; writer for South China Morning Post, Cathay Dragon's Silkroad, APlus, Veolia's "Planet", Hong Kong Tatler; founder of Blue Skies China. MSocSc in Corporate Environmental Governance, University of Hong Kong; BA & MA degree in Natural Sciences (major in Materials Science & Metallurgy), Cambridge University.
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