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CleanTech Trade Mission to China: A Chat with Tom Ranken

We’re all about technology for climate solutions. These need to be globally shared.

-Tom Ranken

Tom Ranken is the President & CEO of the Washington Clean Technology Alliance.

Tom Ranken, President & CEO, Washington Clean Technology Alliance
Tom Ranken,华盛顿州清洁技术联盟总裁兼首席执行官

Prior to joining the WCTA, Tom was a Seattle-based entrepreneur and management consultant. Tom co-founded and was CEO of VizX Labs, which developed the GeneSifter software system used to make discoveries about genes. Tom also led a team that turned around and doubled the size of Axio Research Corporation following significant losses, which was later sold to Solutia. He directed public affairs at the state’s largest biotechnology company, Immunex (now Amgen), and was President of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. He spent seven years in banking.

Q. What does the Washington Clean Technology Alliance do?

A. The Washington Clean Technology Alliance is a trade association of cleantech businesses and supporting companies in Washington State.

Founded in 2007, we facilitate the generation and growth of cleantech companies, jobs, and products in order to advance the state’s position as a leader in cleantech. We advocate for our members with governmental policy makers, sponsor informational and networking events, provide timely information, and provide business services.

Q. Tell us about your recent business trade mission trip to China.

A. In March 2012, I led a business trade mission trip to China from the Seattle area. It was an interesting and highly-productive trip.

In Beijing, our day began with two briefings. One was by the China New Energy Chamber of Commerce; the second was from Prudent Energy.

The New Energy Chamber was founded in 2006 following the establishment of the renewable energy law. Their purpose is to provide resources, research, media relations, and policy recommendations. It was noted during the session that when components, machinery, and equipment for solar PV is considered (in addition to PV modules), the trade gap in this field is in favor of the US.

Prudent Energy is an VRB energy storage company that was born out of technology acquired from Vancouver, BC in 2009. It has 200 employees, forty patents, has raised investment capital from US sources, and currently has fifty projects underway or complete.

In Tianjin, we met with the president and founder of Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint-Stock Co. Ltd., Mr. Qin Xingcai and his team. Lishen is an impressive operation. They are working with a Spokane company, Demand Energy, to create energy storage systems. In addition, they have a joint venture in the creation of the Coda electric car, which is just entering the US market.

In the Lishen meeting room

The founder and his team toured us around the facility and talked to us about their company and views of the market. They are big believers in electric vehicles and are working on both cars and buses. They are endeavoring to create recycling systems and to create much more battery efficiency. Among the best bets for improved batteries are advances in materials, they said.

Our day ended with a reception featuring former Washington State Governor and current US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke. Ambassador Locke emphasized the seriousness of clean tech issues in China.

US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke

Efforts that the Ambassador and his team are making in Beijing and throughout China, are aimed at creating more jobs and benefits for both Americans and Chinese.

That is a view we all share. The remainder of the work is creating specific opportunities for individual companies by making connections and helping them learn how to do business between the US and China.

During our trip, we also attended a briefing by Dr. Wang Jinzhao at the China Development Research Council. Dr. Wang told us about the Five Year Plan and low carbon development. He noted that China imports about half of its oil and expectations are that it could increase to 70% by 2020.

The Five Year Plan has big cleantech and environmental goals. These are governmental objectives and strong efforts will be made to accomplish them.

  • The nation has ambitious plans to develop wind and solar energy. Building efficiency will play a large role.
  • There is a goal to put one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
  • Carbon trading plans are being considered.
  • It is unclear at this point what role natural gas will play in China’s energy future. There are efforts to increase gas utilization from 3 percent to more than double that amount.

We met last with Harrison Tu at Infinity Solar Ltd. The company has spent the past three years developing thermal solar technology that they hope to begin selling commercially soon. The technology allows the company to install a solar thermal unit on homes, which can be used to heat water and the home, and, eventually, air condition homes. The company believes that there are large markets for the technology in China and globally.

Washington Clean Technology Alliance

1301 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2500

Seattle, WA 98101


(206) 389-8655

We’re all about technology for climate solutions. These need to be globally shared.

-Tom Ranken, President & CEO, Washington Clean Technology Alliance

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